Imagine: locked away in your office, you’re at your productive peak. It’s taken all morning to settle in and get to work on that project you’ve been meaning to focus on, but just haven’t got around to.

You’re in the zone. You’re in your element. The world around you is blurred. You’re on a higher plane, doing the kind of great work that got you started in your business in the first place.

Suddenly, a knock comes at the door. Before you can react, your employee’s head pops out from behind it.

“Hey, boss. Everyone’s ready to start the meeting now.”

Meetings.

The word alone conjures a sense of exasperation. When you’re not having them, you’re preparing for them. Is it any wonder that so little ‘real’ work ever gets done? And yet, ironically, it’s in the name of getting work done that so many meetings are being held in the first place!

Sure, you can stay late, keep working while everyone’s heading home for the day, but how long can you keep that up before you burn out?

It might feel like the solution is to avoid meetings altogether, but here’s the thing: they’re a necessary evil. Hate them as much as you desire, a business with 2 or 200 employees simply can’t function without such facilitation of communication (if nothing actually gets done in your meetings, you have another problem entirely).

The key is not to find ways to eliminate meetings, but to ensure they don’t impact on overall productivity. Fortunately, doing so is deceptively easy if you follow these steps:

1) Schedule Effectively

A common mistake is to schedule meetings whenever they’ll fit in your schedule. That might be fine if you’re jumping from meeting to meeting, or if this one is particularly crucial, but on a normal day, that’s only going to prove a hindrance.

Instead, arrange to hold meetings at the beginning or end of a day. These are the points when everyone will be winding up or down, meaning the most productive periods of the day will remain intact.

2) Keep to Task

As the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, I can all but guarantee that in the war room, some staffer piped up at some point to ask if anyone had caught the previous night’s game between the Giants and the Yankees.

If I’m wrong, that was almost definitely the first meeting in the history of human civilisation that managed to stay on topic throughout its entirety…but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Don’t fall prey to distraction. It’s easy enough, but then you only have yourself to blame when the meeting goes an hour overtime.

3) Plan Meeting-Free Days

Choose a day, or days, if possible, on which you will never take meetings. Create a structure to ensure you make the most of that time. Then stick to it.

Deep work days are an essential and often underutilised tool. We’re expected to work hard and fast, to reply to e-mails, to handle the minutia, and yes, to take meetings ASAP, so we do. And then we crash, and we get nothing done.

Planning a day on which to dislocate yourself from all distractions will free you from the drudgeries that otherwise weigh down your creative output and impede your great work.

Don’t worry; your business isn’t going to burn down because you took one day just to focus on what really matters. Stick to it, and what you’ll find is that the opposite will hold true.

4) Stick to the Plan

These steps are easy to follow – so long as you’re willing to follow them for the long term.

Many don’t. They let themselves be distracted. They let themselves worry. And then they end up sleeping at their desk because that one hour meeting that could have easily been scheduled at some other time completely disrupted their day, and they found it difficult to get back into the flow.

Meetings do matter, but if you never get any work done, what’s the point of them?

Create a schedule. Keep focused. Eliminate meetings at least one day a week. You’ll soon start seeing, and feeling, the benefits.

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