Work is ever more collaborative, and the need for daily efficiency stronger than ever. So who has time for boring, unproductive meetings? No one. Keep meetings focused by heeding these don’ts:

1. Don’t just “discuss.” If you simply want to convey information, choose another vehicle. Try sending an e-mail or voice mail to all the people who would have attended the meeting. The best meetings let groups do one of three things: brainstorm, solve a problem or make a decision.

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2. Don’t digress. Deal with off-topic ideas by placing them in a “parking lot”—a whiteboard or flip-chart page—and agree to pursue them at a more appropriate time. If a meeting strays from the agenda, help the group refocus by saying, “Are we getting off track?” Summarize periodically by saying, “What have we decided?”
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3. Don’t finish any discussion without deciding
how the group will act on it. Even if the decision is to set a date for another meeting or continue researching the issue. Record action items as they arise. At meeting’s end, you should have a clear picture of what actions you’ve assigned, what topics have been deemed “off topic” and what needs follow-up at the next meeting.

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