Manage your meetings by managing your life

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on November 17, 2014

Meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Sometimes, we have meetings to plan other meetings. These kinds of days not only leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, but result in little to no time left on the calendar to do all the work talked about in those meetings! And there are almost as many articles about meeting management as there are meetings! Okay, maybe not quite, but you get my point. Something has to change and since this is not rocket science, why do we not get it?

AlarmClockWell, the answer is simple. We do not see the bigger picture. Sure, you can do the powerful few:

  1. Make an agenda and send it out ahead of the meeting. Ask for an agenda when invited to a meeting. No agenda? No meeting.
  2. Assign someone to take minutes, distribute them and follow up on assignments.
  3. Start on time, stay on time and end on time. Bonus points for ending early.

But this is not the real solution. It is only treating the symptom, not the cause.

As a professional facilitator, I can say I have experienced more than my fair share of meetings – some great and some not so great. The greatness comes when someone strolls into a meeting and gets it done. Want to be that person? Well, the agenda, minutes and time policing helps, but it is not really a game changer. It is more like a meeting Band-Aid.

The game changer is about how you are living your life. Yeah, big leap from agendas to life’s priorities. But stay with me. I can explain.

Let’s take a quick look at some life essentials. In doing so, I believe it will become obvious that implementing a few larger changes has the potential to impact meeting management for the better.

  1. Stop the constant connections. Life is not all about being constantly connected, but rather strategically connected. Follow this trend of trading volume for value. Who cares how many LinkedIn connections you have if you really don’t know half of them. Congratulations. You made it to the 500+ connection category. But what is that really doing for you? It is about choosing who to connect to and in what context. This gives a whole new meaning to the right people in the right place. And we may as well add at the right time.
  2. Trade work-life balance for work-life blending. Let’s face it. This balance thing just doesn’t work. Life is too crazy. But when I blend work with pleasure and manage things as priorities instead of by category, I seem to do so much better. Give it a whirl. Plus, it is pretty cool to say: work-life blending
  3. Stop multi-tasking. It is proven to not work, especially if critical thinking is involved. But for some reason, we keep thinking we are getting twice as much done. The reality? You do not need to be a mathematician to see you are wasting time. Mono-tasking is where it is at. Do one thing; do it well; move on to the next thing.
  4. White space vs. white noise. White space is that ability to secure time to just think. To ponder. To meditate. To go to your happy place. Your Zen place. Your quiet space. Whatever works for you. But whatever it takes, secure sacred mental down time. It will be the powerful boost you need. And steer clear of white noise – that meaningless or distracting commotion that fills our days because we let it. It is responding like Pavlov’s dog when we hear the email inbox ping, constantly checking our phone to see who needs us or spending endless amounts of time listening to a pod mate complaining. White noise. Control it, eliminate it, or contain it to a lower priority in your life. Do not give it prime time.

Now, let’s see what these life changes will mean to how we experience meetings:

  1. Understanding the power of the connection means we will naturally realize not everyone in the office needs to be at every meeting. Who are the stakeholders? What are their roles? Put the right people in the right meeting place at the right time.
  2. Blending is really about priorities. Understanding how to identify and manage things with the priority filter on overdrive is a commanding skill. Being able to stick to what matters most in a meeting instead of ending up down rabbit holes, in side bar conversations or held prisoner to someone else’s agenda. Know what the meeting is about, what needs to be accomplished and keep your eye on that prize.
  3. Multi-tasking. Laptops down. If you can read email, write that report or make your grocery list during the meeting, you may not be the right person in the right meeting. Be present. Be engaged. Get the job done and be on your way.
  4. Mental down time makes mental up time all that much better. And who will argue that more mental downtime is bad for a meeting? Not me. Being able to focus and process information in a creative and energized manner will make life – and our meetings – more productive.

Perhaps a little disruptive, but since we have spent the past 30 years talking about agendas and minutes, I thought it may be time to think a little differently. Perhaps we can all schedule a meeting to discuss our progress. NOT!

Some meetings require additional help to accomplish your goals, and to stay on track. Read our next article on: Getting the most out of your meetings: Why hire a facilitator?

Topics: ProFound Skills