Since Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and former engineer Justin Rosenstein left the company in 2008 to start their own firm, Asana, they have been dedicated to the science of productivity.
Around 140,000 companies worldwide — including Uber, Disney, and Major League Baseball — use Asana’s team-organising software, and Moskovitz and Rosenstein are constantly experimenting with productivity strategies.
This year, Asana is gathering its best practices to share with the public, and it sent Business Insider its top five tips for transforming meetings from time-wasters into efficient ways to bring teams onto the same page.
1. Impose a limit on recurring meetings.
Avoid overbooking your weeks with meetings by adopting a “one in, one out” policy; that is, if you have three weekly meetings, for example, and either you or a colleague feels the need to add another one, only do so if you are willing to cut one. Determine how much time you can spend each week in meetings and set a cap.
It’s ultimately about being honest with your time, Asana says, with both yourself and coworkers. Don’t be afraid to decline meetings if they will hamper your productivity. Find alternatives to better communicate with team members so that you do not become reliant on meetings to get things done.
2. Designate an entire day each week to be free of meetings.
“A no-meeting day allows your team uninterrupted flow time for projects,” Asana says. All of Asana has a No-Meeting Wednesday policy, but you can adapt it to specific teams depending on how you work together.
The company recognises, however, that there will sometimes be obligations to clients that cause you to break your own rule, as Moskovitz joked on Twitter:
The key is making exceptions only when it is absolutely necessary.
3. Conduct all meetings with an agenda.
According to an oft-cited 3M study of 900 meetings across American companies, 63% of them were conducted without an agenda. The research is from 1990, but its finding that meetings with agendas run more efficiently and yield more actionable results is still relevant.
Asana recommends assigning a “meeting keeper” to set goals for a group meeting that they then share with the team at the start and ensure that they stay on track throughout. As for one-on-one meetings, both parties should maintain a running list of talking points before getting together.
4. Use the “race to clarity” method.
For each task on the agenda, “extract information and perspective from the team, identify next actions and owners for each action — do this all as quickly as possible,” Asana says. The idea is moving through everything fast and making sure someone is responsible for following through on each point.
If it’s unclear what the right decision is after an initial discussion, don’t pause for reflection. Instead, assign someone to think it over and report back. It’s about trusting your colleagues to work on their own.
5. Allot five minutes at the end for debriefing.
Use the end of your meeting to ensure that everyone is aware of their expected responsibilities.
“By the end of the meeting, the group should have a written list of next steps,” Asana says. “Each action item should have a single owner and a concrete due date.”
“When you take this approach to documenting work and responsibilities, you’ll ensure that tasks won’t fall through the cracks and your next meeting will be that much more productive.”
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