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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Meeting Tips for Time Management

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


June 30, 2014

Planning for effective use of time requires a proactive approach, as in the moment, we can easily get engrossed in the event and lose consciousness and craftsmanship in managing time.

Steve Jobs held an annual meeting to prioritize the work of Apple. Managers fought to get their projects on the list for consideration. After getting the list to 10 top priorities, he crossed off the last 7, focusing the organizations’ time on its highest priorities. What are some ways your groups might identify their highest priorities for meeting time and protect time for those? One is the Focusing Four strategy. When everything is important, nothing is important. When you clarify what is urgent and what is important, time is focused on things that truly impact the mission of the school/organization.

How are new initiatives developed? What is the approval process for adding innovations? Some organizations have a review process that requires a person/department to make a case for the benefits of the initiative before they are approved. This can limit the number of demands in meetings that try to address more topics than are realistically possible. Doing this at the central office level saves hours of time on mandates to schools that may be counterproductive to increasing student achievement.

Another way to limit meetings is to determine who can call meetings and limit the number of people who can do so. Meetings outside of those protocols might require approval. Also consider cutting meeting times by 25-50% by asking people to do reading and study before the meeting. Most people will appreciate the saved time.

Use zero-based budgeting for meetings. Set a specific amount of time for necessary meetings. If an additional meeting is required, that means subtracting time from another meeting.

Use the meeting success structures from Adaptive Schools to hold people to best practices. A simple one topic at a time focus that is honored by all reduces time off task. Agendas with clear and tight objectives save time and keep people focused on the importance of efficiency as well as effectiveness.

A lack of clarity about decision-making also wastes time in meetings. When organizations take the time to explicitly design decision-making processes, a great deal of time is saved. Time invested in deciding who decides and communicating the processes for decision-making (consensus, committee, vote, etc.) saves time in meetings spent on working through those issues.

Source: Mankins, M, Brahm, C. and Caimi, G. “Your Scarcest Resource.” Harvard Business Review. Volume 92, No.5, May, 2014

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