I'm on a crusade against pointless meetings. Here are some of my favorite ways to reframe meetings so that they stay action-oriented.

To win at this, just remember 3 P's: Purpose, People, Progress.

  1. Purpose: What actions and decisions will this meeting facilitate? You must be able to identify these before going to Step 2.
  2. People: What key decisionmakers and project stakeholders need to be in this meeting so that we can take decisive action? If these people aren't present, you're doomed to have to schedule another meeting to catch them up, so no sense moving on to Step 3.
  3. Progress: How will you specifically measure progress? What are the expectations for ongoing reporting? How will project managers communicate with higher-ups? You don't need to nail down specifics here, but communicating basic expectations is essential.

Follow-Up Questions to Identify Purpose

Colleague: Can we meet this afternoon to talk about [the upcoming launch]?

Possible responses:

  • It depends. What key decisions do we want to make during this meeting?
  • I'm open to it. Let's use our time together to discuss action steps.
  • I'd like to, but I want to be sure we're using our time wisely. What are you looking to achieve with this meeting?

With the last option, I'm listening for actions and decisions. If the colleague wants status updates or contextual information, I try to push back and see if I can send existing material to review first. Sometimes I can avoid or significantly reduce a meeting by sending a few Google Docs links or forwarding a couple email chains.

Follow-Up Questions to Identify People

Colleague: Can we meet this afternoon to finalize and agree on [the project milestones for our upcoming event]?

Possible responses:

  • Sure, but I'd like Colleague A to be there. She's responsible for many of the deliverables, so I want to ensure we have her input.
  • I'm open to it. Does anyone else on the team need to green-light this? If so, let's have them join us.
  • I'd like to, but [decisionmaker] is out of town, and we need to run this by him before proceeding. Let's save this for when he's back in the office.

Follow-Up Questions to Identify Progress

Colleague: Can we meet this afternoon to start planning our big event next year?

Possible responses:

  • Sure. Let's use this time together to create a milestone calendar and decide how we'll report progress.
  • I'm open to it. Let's discuss and decide how we want to report progress over the next six months.

Remember, if you don't manage your time, others will manage it for you. The best thing you can do for your own productivity is to ensure the meetings you do attend are as action-packed and valuable as possible.[/rebel]

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