How-to Have More Productive Meetings

Ever been in a long, unproductive meeting? We all have at some time or another. Here’s how to avoid them:

Productive Meetings

Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and other books on happiness and habit formation, recommends these strategies for making the most out of meetings.

  • Start on time and end on time. It may be obvious, but once people see that meetings start late, they begin to come late, and the bad habit builds, Rubin writes in an article on
  • Remember it’s helpful to spend a little time chitchatting. “For a long time, I didn’t believe this to be true, and I tried to be hyper-efficient, but now I realize that it’s important—and productive—for people to have a chance to relate on a personal level,” Rubin says. “People need to build friendships; they need a chance to show their personalities. … Meetings are very important for this process.”
  • Find a way to draw out those who hesitate to jump in or stop talking if interrupted. These people often have quite a lot to contribute.
  • Have an agenda and stick to it. If possible, send out the agenda in advance so that people can be prepared for the meeting.
  • Never go to a meeting if you don’t know why you’re supposed to be there. This may seem obvious, but many people accept meeting invitations without knowing why they have been invited.
  • Regular meetings should be highly-structured and as short as possible. “Have rules for canceling the meeting when appropriate—if such-and-such doesn’t happen, if only a certain number of people can attend, etc.,” she says.
  • If a meeting is long, schedule breaks when people can check their email and phones. After a certain length of time, some people become anxious about being out of touch and will start checking email on their phones under the table.
  • Keep meetings tightly focused. Inevitably, side issues crop up. If it’s not relevant to the meeting at hand, ask people to meet on those issues separately.
  • Be specific about action items. At the end of the meeting, review what is supposed to happen as a consequence of the meeting, such as who will do a specific task.
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