One of the reasons I love living the freelance lifestyle is a lack of meetings.

At least in theory.

While I mostly work alone, there are times I need to attend meetings by phone or video (or even in person). I notice that many meetings are a waste of time. Not because items don’t need to be discussed, but because there is often something else going on, including tangents and getting stuck going around in circles.

If you are tired of meetings that don’t do the trick, here are 5 tips for more effective meetings:

1. Set an Agenda and Stick to It

One of the best things you can do is set an agenda. That way, you know what the meeting is about, and which points need to be discussed. Stick to the agenda. If you have a specific purpose to the meeting, it will not only be effective, but also shorter. If you need to, assign someone to be in charge of the meeting — and in charge of keeping things on track.

2. Keep it as Short as Possible

More effective meetings aren’t long and drawn out. In fact, meetings can kill productivity. Once the meeting has accomplished what it’s supposed to, adjourn so that everyone can get to work. One trick is to be specific about start and end times for the meetings. This can cut down on unrelated chatter, as well as provide incentive for your meeting to move forward according to the agenda.

3. Reduce the Number of People Involved

Be realistic about which people are needed for the meeting, and avoid expanding the circle too much. The more people attending the meeting, the more likely it is to get off track. A meeting should be designed to address specific purposes (and not too many of those) with specific people. Try to keep the number of people in your meeting to no more than 10.

4. Ban Devices

Try banning devices in meetings. This forces everyone to come prepared (they can’t just look something up), and it can also cut down on distractions. If you keep your meetings short and to the point, there also won’t be a need for workers to worry about missing something important. Keep the devices out of the room, and you are likely to have more effective meetings.

5. Do You Really Need a Meeting for That?

Finally, one of the biggest keys to more effective meetings is holding fewer meetings. There are times when a meeting just isn’t necessary. Most of the time, updates can be done via email or other means. There are plenty of productivity and collaboration tools that can help your team stay focused and effective without a lot of meetings.

Before you schedule a meeting, make sure that it makes sense to hold a meeting. Just by reducing the amount of meetings you have, and increasing the purpose and effectiveness of the meetings you go through with, you can boost your company’s overall productivity, and that means more efficient operation and a better bottom line.

I'm Miranda and I'm a freelance financial journalist and money expert. My specialties are investing, small business/entrepreneurship and personal finance. The journey to business success and financial freedom is best undertaken with fellow travelers.

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