Time Management for Meetings

Posted on July 12, 2010

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Personal Management, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I’m sure we all have had experiences of never ending meetings, those that start early in the day and end when the sky is dark. What’s more, many of these meetings often yield no results, and we come out of such meetings, wondering what we had talked about that took the entire day! Evidently, without proper time management, meetings can loose its purpose and effectiveness.

Let us first explore three reasons why time management in meetings is so important.

1. It allows us to avoid spending unnecessary time. In the corporate world, we often find that time equals money. We often find that time is our most precious resource, and a small amount of time can make a huge amount of difference in competitiveness. Should we spend unnecessary time sitting in a room carrying out unproductive processes where we really can be out there securing deals, we would be severely shortchanging ourselves.

2. It provides a target to strive towards. Without an end in mind, as Steven Covey puts it, in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we would be beating about the bush, digressing allover and talking about everything but the topic!

3. It allows members to have an idea of what to expect. Simple as this may sound, I believe everyone would agree that this is crucial especially when they are sitting inside a meeting room wondering when the meeting will end. This allows members to focus on the discussion at hand and work towards the time, rather than letting their minds wander and wonder when their agony will end!

The success of a meeting may very well hinge on its time management, and a poor time management plan may well render the meeting ineffective and cause it to miss its intended outcome. As such, here are 5 Tips that we may employ to effectively manage time in meetings:

1. Start on Time. This serves as more than just being a good start, this also sends a strong signal to all members that the chairperson of this meeting is serious about time management and recognizes the role of time in the success of a meeting.

2. Decide on an End Time. As mentioned before, having a pre-decided end time allows members to have an idea of what to expect; it gives them something to look forward to. It allows them to focus on the content of the meeting and contribute actively, without fear that speaking out would only cause the meeting to drag needlessly and endlessly.

3. Take into Account Attention Span. The length of the meeting should take into account the attention span of the members. While we may feel that there is a lot to cover in a short period of time, forcing our way on when everyone is clearly exhausted would take us no where. Should there be a need to, schedule breaks in between to factor in attention span. In the past, weekly meetings that I chaired lasted no longer than half an hour as I knew that any longer would not yield results.

4. Assign a Time Keeper. Have a person to keep track of the time spent, and advise the group accordingly. This is important as it allows us to avoid the situation of setting an end time, only to continue as if it was never set. It ensures the effectiveness of the time goals.

5. Be reasonable when Allocating Time. Having said so much, it is also worthy to note not to be over ambitious in setting time goals. While it is important to be time efficient, focusing too much on spending as little time as possible at the expense of the quality of discussion would be unwise, and defeats the purpose of the meeting in the first place. Set reasonable amount of time for the meeting, and never compromise quality time in a bid to shorten the time spent.

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