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How to save time in meetings: A guide for leaders and people managers
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How to save time in meetings: A guide for leaders and people managers

Discover how to save time in meetings to increase efficiency and productivity.

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As a great man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Meetings can be a powerful tool for getting consensus and alignment building team unity. When misused, however, they can drain time and productivity, slicing through the day with ineffective discussions and unclear outcomes. 

It's no wonder 46 percent of employees feel they have too many unnecessary meetings on their calendars—and no time to get into the flow of work. 

Sometimes, the best way to get more time back in your day is to cancel meetings altogether and do more async. You also need to know how–and when–to have synchronous meetings that genuinely move projects and teams forward. 

In this article, you'll learn how to save time in meetings and get back more time overall for meaningful focus work. You'll also learn how an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard lets you move faster with fewer meetings.

Do more in–and in between–meetings.  
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work – files, tools, and apps – so you can work async or in real time whenever you want. 
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8 ways to save time during meetings and boost team productivity

Running effective meetings doesn't mean defaulting to them for every decision. In fact, 50 percent of meetings are considered time wasted, and 18 percent of employees believe most meetings can be an email. 

Sometimes, you can save time through shorter meetings. Other times, by canceling bad ones altogether you get more time for deep work. 

Before we dive into how you can avoid unproductive meetings, it’s important to know what constitutes a bad meeting: These are often poorly facilitated, run long, go off track, lack an agenda, and, therefore, clear goals. 

With that in mind, let's see how you can avoid them. 

1. Have a meeting agenda

A meeting agenda sets clear expectations, guides the flow of conversation, and helps participants stay focused. By providing a roadmap for the meeting, you minimize the risk of going off-topic so time spent working together is more effective. 

A product team's meeting agenda might start with outlining their objective of reviewing current product development. Then, it might include progress updates, time to identify blockers, feature review and feedback, and then next steps and assignments. With time allotted for each agenda point, the team can stay focused and aligned—and even skip their next sprint meeting. 

While it's good practice to have a clear, focused agenda, Tim Green, COO at TeamUp, offers a valuable suggestion: "Always ensure that the meeting agenda is flexible enough to accommodate unexpected discussion points." This means you need to find the sweet spot between structure and flexibility in your agenda. This enables a natural flow of ideas and talking points—without getting sidetracked. This can also help increase engagement and make the meetings you do have count. 

2. Share information before, during, and after the meeting 

Efficient meetings start before it's time to get together. By sharing key information beforehand, like agendas, files, documents, and tools, teams can significantly cut down on meeting times and get more done. 

If you're using Switchboard, you can share key materials in a dedicated room where you can drag, drop, and organize apps, docs, and notes all in one place. With a single, always-open source of truth for project work, it's easier to get work moving along in and between meetings. Plus, it gives everyone time to prepare in advance, so they can contribute more meaningfully while staying on the same page. 

For example, a design team might use a dedicated Switchboard room to upload briefs, mock-ups, prototypes, and design tools like Figma. Before the next meeting, the team can check in on any pending action items, go over design specs, and add to the meeting agenda—and make the best use of everyone's time when they do meet.

Design tools and Google Docs in a Switchboard room
Switchboard gives your team a space to get together and be creative, async and in real time.  Source: Switchboard

3. Don't invite everyone

To keep your meetings productive and engaging, it's key to get the right people together. Think about inviting stakeholders who are directly involved and will be affected by the decisions being made and everyday strategies. 

This way, you’re not spending unnecessary time coordinating across different departments or time zones to include people who don’t need to be there. Plus, it avoids dampening morale and productivity by including people who might not find the discussion relevant or interesting.

For those who don't need to be at the meeting but still should be kept in the loop, you should still share all the necessary information with them. This might be meeting notes, summaries, and meeting recordings. If you're using Switchboard, you can just give them access to the dedicated project room where they can find everything they need to catch up async. 

4. Move projects forward async

Meeting in real time or in-person is useful for quick decision-making, brainstorming, and team-building. But, you don't need to default to meetings for things like status updates, feedback, and non-urgent communication. Avoiding back-to-back meetings can help reduce stress and the possibility of burnout, which can boost productivity and morale. 

Here's a framework you can use to help determine the meetings and tasks that can be done async: 

  • Share async—like docs, slides, or code
  • Review async—add comments or make video walkthroughs
  • Discuss and decide async or together—either converse in comments or meet to talk as a group

For example, in Switchboard, a product manager can share product roadmaps with their team async. The product team can enter the room and interact with product metrics files, their task management tool, and ask Switchboard AI to summarize upcoming agenda items—all on their own time. Then, they can all come together in real time and make informed decisions about product features, bug fixes, and updates. This lets the team create frictionless workflows and get more done without a meeting.

Sticky notes, PDFs, Google Docs, and open apps sidebar in a Switchboard room
Switchboard makes it easy to follow an async-first framework and get more done in and in-between meetings. Source: Switchboard

5. Use the right collaboration tools  

To make the most of everyone's time and energy, you need to enable employees with the right toolsnot every tool is designed for true collaboration. Plus, tools need to integrate well so you're not wasting time context switching or toggling between multiple notifications, apps, and tabs. This can significantly slow down your team and your meeting progress. Fragmented information also leads to working and information silos. 

When everyone has a shared space to work from, you can spend more time building products and solving user problems—instead of searching for the right links or files and trying to consolidate information. 

Here are our top tools for meaningful collaboration:

  • Switchboard for sharing ideas, giving feedback, and making decisions
  • Asana for work management 
  • Notion for document collaboration
  • Mural for whiteboarding
  • Figma for design and prototyping
  • GitHub for collaborative software development
Pro tip: Use all the tools above, and more, in your persistent Switchboard room. Say goodbye to integrations or downloads and hello to a single source of truth. 
Multiple tools and browser-based apps in Switchboard
All your favorite tools work in Switchboard so it's easy to keep projects moving forward no matter where or when you work.  Source: Switchboard

6. Audit recurring meetings 

It's easy to stick to schedules, meetings, or tasks just because you’ve always done it that way. But meeting for meetings' sake isn't a good enough reason. Especially since unnecessary meetings cost US businesses 37 billion last year. They also take a toll on employee productivity, output, and morale. 

So, it's time to follow in Asana's footsteps and audit your meetings, whether they're in-person or virtual meetings. Start by clearing your calendar of all meetings for 48 hours and then repopulating it with the ones that truly move work forward. Or, you can take a page out of Shopify's book and simply cancel all recurring meetings with more than two people—which saves their employees a whopping 322,000 hours of meetings. 

7. Cancel the meeting altogether

If your meeting is mostly one person reading out information, isn't collaborative, or is a repetitive rundown of stuff everyone already knows—it's time to hit the cancel button. 

Ask yourself: Could this meeting be an email instead? Productivity can skyrocket when you cut out unnecessary meetings, especially when a well-crafted email or quick update on Slack does the job just as well. This way, everyone can read through the material at their own pace, freeing up time for more productive tasks. 

Think about your daily standups. By running asynchronous standup meetings instead of traditional ones, your team can stay aligned without having to put down what they’re doing to attend. For example, a product manager can spend more time analyzing user feedback and market trends to refine the product strategy; the designers can finalize the user interface for an upcoming feature. In other words: You get time to work on meaningful tasks that can often get sidelined due to lack of focus time. 

Remember, every minute saved from a redundant meeting is a minute that can be used to get actual work done or brainstorm new ideas. 

8. Ask for feedback 

There are many reasons why meetings become ineffective, but if you don't get your team's take on how to improve, you'll never fully get to the bottom of it. It's important to get their input on how your meetings are running, whether they're too frequent, and how they affect day-to-day productivity.

Use Switchboard polls to collect anonymous feedback before, during, and after your meeting. You can even ask people to tell you using emojis or share an anonymous Google Form with them. No matter which method you choose, remember to keep this feedback loop going. It's key to finding that sweet spot for meetings that work for everyone.

Poll in Switchboard asking people to rate how they're feeling using emojis
Use Switchboard to poll your team and get feedback quickly so you can improve.  Source: Switchboard

Save time in meetings: Cancel the bad ones and boost productivity

Meetings are essential for collaboration and decision-making. But poorly planned or unnecessary ones can lead to decreased productivity, as they interrupt workflow and can result in meeting fatigue. 

Sometimes, the best way to have shorter meetings and get more time back in your day is knowing when to cancel them. This is because they can eat into your workday, leaving less time for focused, individual tasks. That's why leaders need to know how–and when–to have synchronous meetings, so they really move projects and teams forward.

Ways to save time in meetings include sharing information before, during, and after the meeting, moving projects forward async, and asking for feedback. Plus, when you use an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard, everyone can work from persistent rooms that save your work, so it's easier to cancel bad meetings—and do more with your time. 

Do more in–and in between–meetings.  
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work – files, tools, and apps – so you can work async or in real time whenever you want. 
Sign up free

Frequently asked questions about saving time during meetings

How do you keep time in a meeting? 

To keep time in team meetings, you can use time management tools, timekeepers, or time trackers to determine the amount of time passed. If, by the end of the meeting, you haven't covered all your agenda points, you can schedule follow-up meetings. 

How do you keep minutes for a meeting? 

To keep minutes for a meeting, you either need to elect a person or get AI to do your note-taking. They can record key details such as dates, meeting attendees, main discussion points, decisions, and action items. Then they’ll organize and draft the minutes, saving you a ton of time putting together an accurate, concise record of the meeting's proceedings and decisions.

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Do more in–and in between–meetings.

Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work–files, tools, and apps–so you can work async or in real time whenever you want.