How to run more effective meetings

A talkative co-worker is rambling on again during a meeting that’s already run long. Eventually, with no decisions made, the meeting leader calls it quits, and everyone goes back to work.

“What a waste of time” is all you can think.

The time-waster meeting is a common fixture in offices across America.

The reason, says Reid Hastie, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, is that we’re not thinking about and valuing our time the right way.

Hastie tells The New York Times we often equate time with money. But we can always get more money, save it or move it around. Not so with time. You can’t earn an extra hour of it.

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We often feel we’ll have more time later, so we waste it now and carelessly steal time from our friends and family later, when we come up short and need an extra hour at work.

Also, we’re blind to lost time opportunities. We don’t think about the other ways we could have invested our time, as we do with money.

So, time and money? Not at all the same.

To show more appreciation for the value of time, Hastie says he now takes a more active role and tries to make meetings more effective. Here are the principles he uses:

Whoever calls a meeting should explain its objectives by answering this question: “What do we want accomplished when we leave this room?” This means specifying tangible goals and assigning responsibility for creating, summarizing and reporting on them.

Think about the opportunity costs of the meeting. How many people really need to be there, and how long does the meeting need to last? If you doubt the need for a meeting, speak up. Set and stick to a finish time.

Tap effective people to lead meetings, and steer clear of those who have a track record of wasting others’ time.

Tip: If the time-wasting culprit is your boss, say something like, “If you have a PowerPoint presentation or reports for this meeting, let me help you by disseminating the information beforehand. It might save you time during the meeting if people arrive prepared.”