7 Steps to Make Meetings More Productive

Leader meeting with employees

Meetings are notorious wastes of time. Although half the battle is calling only meetings that make sense, the rest is a matter of making the meetings you do hold productive. 

According to a Clarizen/Harris Poll survey, the average U.S. worker spends 4.5 hours in general status meetings every week. Employees spend an extra 4.6 hours every week preparing for those meetings.

Ten hours per week per employee is a serious time investment. Add in all the other meetings your team holds, and you had better make sure they’re productive.

Making Meetings Productive

Making meetings productive is about planning ahead, being focused in the meeting itself, and closing with clear action steps. Here’s how to do it:

1. Finish important tasks ahead of time.

One of the reasons that meetings are burdensome is because people do not plan ahead. Being in the right headspace for meetings is key.

Start with schedule arrangement. Use time blocking to ensure you aren’t trying to get other things done during the meeting time. With time blocking, you set aside a specific chunk of time to finish a particular task. For example, you might dedicate an hour to doing nothing but writing a request for proposals. This means no checking your social media or picking up random phone calls. 

2. Make a priority list.

If you want to get the most out of a meeting you’re required to attend, make a priority list. What goals do you want to accomplish by attending this meeting? To get opinions on a new partnership? To determine a new sales strategy? Jot that down, and bring it to the meeting.

This is a great way to keep meetings focused. At the beginning of the meeting, tell the group what you want to get out of the meeting. Ask others to briefly share their own goals for the conversation as well. If it gets off track, look down at your list and steer things back.

3. Participate.

Plans are great, but if you want to accomplish your goals at a meeting, then you have to throw your hat in the ring. If you just sit there like a stone, don’t expect others to think about your priorities for you. 

If you don’t understand what deadline your boss is speaking about, then speak up. If you’re convinced that you’ll forget a newly scheduled appointment with your client, write it down in the notes. 

4. Limit meeting time and attendees.

Do you want to get the most out of your meetings? Limit the time and attendees to what is necessary. The reason some meetings go on for hours is because they involve people who shouldn’t be present.

If the meeting is focused around marketing department priorities, only have marketing folks there. If you’re talking about a patent, then the legal team should be involved. If you’re attending a status meeting for a small department, anything more than one hour is overkill. 

5. Stay focused.

Meetings may not take intense focus, but you should still be engaged in them. If you spend every second of the meeting checking your email, then you won’t come away with anything valuable.

How do you stay focused during meetings? By realizing that the more attention you give to them, the more meaningful they will be. 

Here are some tips to stay focused during meetings

  • Listen to music, meditate, or otherwise relax before the meeting.
  • Be positive.
  • Keep your priority list handy.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.
  • Actively listen and ask questions.

6. Make suggestions.

If you’re spending time in a meeting, you should be contributing to it. If your coworker recommends that you should lead the next social media campaign, ask further questions. Why does she think you should lead the campaign? What are the goals for the campaign? 

Build on those ideas. Perhaps there’s a secondary goal you see as valuable. Maybe you could jointly lead the campaign. When in doubt, adopt improv comedy’s “yes, and…” technique.

7. End with action steps.

Many people complain that meetings accomplish nothing. Don’t just sit there and talk; make a plan. Here are some tips:

To end on an actionable note:

    • Suggest next steps: Who will do what, by when, how, and why? Every action step needs a clear reason. 
    • Get it in writing: Without a written record, the action steps may not be followed. 
  • Ask for final thoughts: Someone else may want to get a suggestion in before the meeting ends. 


  • Thank everyone for their time: If people feel appreciated, they’ll be that much more willing to work on the agreed action steps. 

It’s All About Goals

When you have a goal to work toward and stick to it, you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time. That, in a nutshell, is how you make more of your meetings.

Meetings may always be a drag, but they don’t have to be soul sucking. Some simple hacks like planning, participating, and focusing can go a long way. 

About Jon Bradshaw

President of http://FluentCode.io and appointment.com. Experienced Co-Founder with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Strong business development professional skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Business Planning, Sales, Market Research, and Management.

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