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8 Meeting Time Wasters--and How to Speed Things Up

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On Sundays, some members see the inside of a Church building more than the inside of their own homes! And even if we're not in a presidency or on twelve different ward and stake committees, nobody wants to spend more time in meetings than necessary.

Get Sunday back and spend more time with family by understanding these 8 common problems with additional Church-related meetings--and then learn how to solve them. 

Problem #1: Too many meetings

Talking face-to-face is a fantastic tool for figuring out complex problems and holding lengthy discussions. However, when meetings will be more simplistic--filled with announcements, making assignments, or just checking in on progess--holding an actual meeting might be overkill. Note: There are some specific meetings Church handbooks encourage be held weekly. You should always defer to official Church instruction when debating cancelling a meeting. 

Fix: Meetings with simple objectives can reasonably be taken care of with a phone call or an email instead. 

Bonus: Calling or emailing also saves travel time for everyone, not just in-meeting time!

Problem #2: Meetings where only a few people talk while the rest of the group waits

Especially when large groups of people meet, it's easy for a meeting to end up like a series of sub-meetings where business concerning only two or three members is discussed while the rest of the group waits. It's easy to see how this ends up making meetings longer and wastes time. 

Fix: Only discuss items relevant to all parties in the main group meeting. Break off into smaller meetings for more specific business. 

Problem #3: Meetings that are unfocused and wander 

Many a meeting starts off on the wrong foot because those attending come only with a vague idea of what needs to be discussed. We understand how this can happen--people who have too many church meetings on Sundays are busy folks, and planning out every item to be covered in a meeting takes precious time.

Fix: Write an agenda. Even though it takes extra time in preparation, having a specific list of what needs to be discussed and what needs to be accomplished will end up saving time in the long run. 

Problem #4: Meetings that start late

Whether or not we have a member who runs on "Mormon Standard Time," or if we lose track of the time in small talk before the meeting starts, losing time to starting late is easily avoidable. 

Fix: Commit to starting the meeting on time, every time, even if not everyone is there yet. By waiting for late members to arrive, we waste the time of those who were there when they were supposed to be--and not only is that not fair, once people realize the meeting consistently starts late, they might start showing up late, too.

Problem #5: Meetings that run over time

Whether or not we started the meeting late, some gatherings end up taking longer than planned. Valuable discussion or great new ideas can push the agenda and cause the meeting to accidentally run over. 

Fix: Commit to ending the meeting on time, even if there's still more that needs to be discussed. This is respectful to everyone's time and allows members with busy schedules to more accurately budget their day. 

Problem #6: Meetings that don't get through all material

When we've committed to ending our meetings on time, we're bound to have material that we don't get through from time to time. And that's okay.

Fix: Always discuss critical items first and leave less-important items for discussion at the next meeting, where possible. If needed (see Problem #1 above), schedule a follow-up meeting at a later time to finish discussing critical materials.

Problem #7: Meetings where time seems to disappear

This is symptomatic of meetings the world over--meetings are like a time vortex because they'll to stretch to fit whatever amount of time you're willing to spend in them. 

Fix: When it's feasible, hold a "stand up" meeting, which is just like it sounds: everyone stands for the duration of the meeting to motivate them to keep things short. Another solution is scheduling the meeting for less time than needed to force the group to stay on task in order to end on time (see Problem #5). 

Problem #8: Meetings that rehash the same things over and over again

We swear we've sat through this meeting before, and sometimes the truth is, we probably have. Repeating the same discussion, whether it's looping over and over again in the same meeting or carried on across multiple weeks, ends up wasting time once everything relevant has been said.  

Fix: Call debated items to a vote after a specific amount of discussion. Write down the decision of the group or committee leader. Send these notes out to the group after each meeting. If necessary, recount the previous meeting's minutes before starting your latest meeting to remind everyone what was decided so it doesn't get brought up again.