Meetings, meetings, meetings: ‘Tis the season in the land of academia for get-togethers, end-of-term finalizations, and endless confabs about all that stuff you must resolve before faculty are buried in prep for finals.
Here are the top five suggestions
1. Send out an agenda with five bullet points — no more, no less
Yes, that means it’s necessary to edit the list of tasks you want to accomplish down to priorities — but isn’t that what meetings are for? If you have fewer than five things on your agenda, then there’s little reason to meet. If you have more than that, you’re likely to veer off onto tangents that don’t pertain to the purpose.
2. Chop five minutes off each meeting for every 30 minutes scheduled
That is, if you think you need to meet for an hour, plan to stop, really stop, at the 50-minute mark. If you’ve scheduled the meeting for 30 minutes, don’t go over 25. Cutting your time will keep you on topic and keep attendees awake
3. Change location and encourage movement
In this case, advice for students is good advice for team managers, too: research shows students retain more material if they change study locales frequently. It also helps to stand up and walk now and then. I used to encourage my ADHD students to pace while memorizing flash cards with excellent results. These days, you can assume all your direct reports are a little scattered, especially as end-of-term fatigue sets in. Take your team out to lunch or host a meeting in the park. Make the gathering memorable and they’re more likely to keep critical points in mind down the road
4. State your purpose
That may sound obvious, but how many meetings have you attended that seemed to run off in unproductive directions? Make sure everyone knows that you have a single clear intention. That way everyone will know when the goal is met. Attendees who leave with a sense of accomplishment are happier and more productive
5. Have a discussion leader
Yes, academia prides itself on rich diversity, innovation and creativity — even in administrative wings. Yes, an autocratic approach can seem like an enemy to the above. But it will be possible to hear a greater multiplicity of views if one person has the authority to change subjects, ask quiet participants to speak up, and, yes, occasionally silence an over-long talker