Optimizing Meetings to Maximize Individual Brainstorming Time

Are you overwhelmed by unnecessary meetings? We’ve all been there: one more meeting, and you feel like you’re going to scream. You’ve been trying to make some real progress on your creative project, but the constant meetings have really been cutting into your individual brainstorming time. If you feel like the number of meetings you’ve been attending is cutting into your productivity, you’re not imagining it.

One study estimated that employees are attending up to 62 meetings a month, and about half of those meetings are unnecessary. Most people are scheduled for too many meetings that don’t accomplish much of anything except wasting time. That’s not to say that meetings can’t be valuable for innovation—they definitely can be. The key is streamlining and minimizing meetings for maximum impact while allowing employees ample time to focus on their own projects and brainstorming. Follow these simple steps to keep your meetings as effective (and necessary) as possible, so you can get back to work faster.

Benefits of Meetings

Before you start to revamp your meeting strategy, it’s important to remember why we have meetings in the first place: to share information and ideas. While many people view creative inspiration as a solitary activity, many of the best ideas are generated in a collaborative setting. Meetings can be a great way to brainstorm as a group, evaluate new ideas, or discuss how to implement a new idea. When they are well-moderated, well-planned, and efficient, people should come away inspired, not stressed about losing an hour and accomplishing very little.

Look at Your Calendar

First, take stock of how many hours of the week are occupied with meetings. Could those meetings be condensed into fewer, longer sessions? Can some be cut entirely? Look for opportunities within your calendar—it’s a great way to gain insight and choose which meetings require re-evaluation. Meeting frequency is also important to consider—repetitive, frequent meetings could be reduced while accomplishing the same goals.

Record Meeting Efficiency

To get an idea of how wasteful your current meeting system is, it’s a good idea to start recording each meeting (someone taking the minutes should be sufficient) in order to see how long each meeting lasts, and how much of that time is productive. It’s helpful to do this for a few weeks, to get a larger sample size. That way, you can spot trends and focus streamlining efforts.

Create a Plan for Each Meeting

Before the meeting, the moderator should prepare a plan for the meeting, and make others aware of it in advance. This way, everyone knows the ground rules when they walk in, and no time is wasted with questions about process. If the meeting is intended to generate or critique ideas, make sure a concrete format is provided to prevent chaos or one person dominating the meeting. Getting input from everyone and avoiding groupthink are key to a successful meeting.

Curate the Attendees

Have you ever attended a meeting that was absolutely irrelevant to you? Instead of inviting everyone to every single meeting, it’s better to curate the invitations to include only people who can provide or receive value. Everyone else’s time is better spent focusing on their own work!

Focus on Value

Above all, make sure that any time spent in meetings is valuable to the participants and the business. If it isn’t, it’s time to make a change. Many teams function completely remotely, with no in-person meetings at all, and maybe the occasional video chat meeting or conference call, so why can’t teams who work in an office together? Less is more when it comes to meetings, and their value is in the content, not the frequency.

Respect the Creative Process

Restructuring meetings isn’t just about spending less time physically in the conference room. It’s also about giving people the time they need to focus and brainstorm on their own. It’s very difficult to get into the creative zone with constant distractions, and breaking up the day too much can reduce the creative output of the team as a whole. Everyone needs to be on board with the need to reduce and streamline meetings for the initiative to be successful, particularly management. Respect the creative process and give creative employees the time they need to do what they do best: come up with game-changing breakthroughs that will make your company stand out.

By Ryan Ayers

About the author

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.

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