Meet Without Losing Time

There is an abundance of resources—courses, books, and articles—available on how to organize and run meetings. Why should I write another article? I have 2 reasons:

  1. despite this wealth of knowledge, countless Loss of Time (LoT)meetings continue to occur daily. It is waste of resources, a source of negative emotions and a loss of credibility of meeting organisers and their organisation which must be eliminated.
  2. avoiding losing time in meetings is easily doable as described in this article. We will explore a straightforward, practical step by step approach to organizing and conducting effective and efficient meetings with impact.

The Objective

The Power of Starting with the End in Mind

Drawing inspiration from one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, let us apply the concept of “starting with the end in mind” to our meetings. Therefore, when setting up a meeting first finish the following sentence: : “At the end of the meeting …” followed by the desired outcome.


“At the end of the meeting

  • … we will have reached a decision regarding  …”
  • … we will have identified 3 viable alternatives for …”
  • … you will possess all necessary information to successfully manage Project ABC.”
  • … we will have agreed on a winning strategy for this deal. “

Focus on Results, Not Actions

Your objective should describe what you want to achieve, not what you are going to do. In my coaching practice I frequently encounter activities declared as objective, like

“We are here to

  • present our company / a proposal / a suggested approach …”
  • talk about next week’s conference ….”
  • discuss how we want to handle this new situation”.

Would you be satisfied with an outcome such as. “By the end of the meeting we will have presented our proposal” or “… will have talked about” or “…will have discussed the new situation?” Hardly. These “objectives” lack impact—they fall into the Loss of Time (LoT) potential category.

 Visualize Next Steps

Once you have defined the objective, visualize the end of the meeting. What next steps could logically follow from achieving the meeting objective.

 Reflect: is the meeting needed?

Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself:

  • Effectiveness Check: Could a simple phone call or email achieve the same result more efficiently?
  • Alignment with Goals: is there an alignment of this meeting objective with broader organizational goals? If yes: what is it? If no: do we really need this meeting?

The Objective determines everything else

The Agenda

The agenda plays a pivotal role in meeting effectiveness:

  • Start: Always begin with confirming and agreeing upon objective and agenda.
  • Big Picture: What discussion items will be critical to reaching the meeting objective and the underlying more long term goal? Which of these topics could more efficiently be handled in other formats?
  • Sequence: Apply another habit of effective people: establish a collective understanding of all relevant information before drawing conclusions or making decisions. Big picture topics normally precede detail topics, important agenda items less important ones.
  • End: always end with conclusions and next steps.
  • Assign Conversation Leads: Define who will lead discussions for each agenda item. Allocate time budgets.

Who needs to attend?

To reach the objective without LoT few people only might have to attend, some might have to attend for selected agenda items, some might need to be informed only. Consider the following to take a decision:

  • Input: Whose expertise, experience, situational knowledge, creativity, or external perspective is crucial to achieving the objective?
  • Output: Who will be impacted by the outcome, and who needs to take action?
  • People Concerns: Consider whose buy-in, commitment, and support are necessary. Be mindful of potential egos that could be affected if excluded.
  • Filter: Who needs to attend discussions on certain agenda items only?

You can use the same 4 points to test whether it makes sense for you to attend a meeting:

  • Input: Is there anything significant I can contribute to achieving the meeting result?
  • Output: In what way could I be impacted by the outcome of the meeting?
  • People Concerns: Who would be offended / would mind if I didn’t attend? Who needs my support?
  • Filter: Should I suggest participating during part of the meeting only?

The Invitation

To avoid wasting time ensure participants are focused and prepared. Your meeting invitations should include:

  • Objective: Clearly state purpose and objective of the meeting.
  • Agenda Details: Specify conversation leads and time allocations where appropriate.
  • Preparation Tasks: Outline any necessary pre-meeting work


Before the meeting:

  • Do your own homework: Read relevant documents or materials.
  • Reflect for each agenda item: How can you support reaching the objective? What questions should you ask?
  • Anticipate hurdles: Address potential obstacles in advance—such as missing information or conflicts with other projects or strategic priorities.

The Meeting

Prerequisites for Success

This article focuses on the flow from objective to next steps. Having

  • a clear objective,
  • a logically structured agenda
  • the right participants present
  • preparations completed

there is a high probability your meeting is successful and efficient. There are however additional aspects of effective meeting management which are not dealt with in this article..



Having started with a shared understanding of a clear objective simplifies concluding. Just say:

“At the beginning of today’s meeting, we aimed to [insert your meeting objective]. To what extent have we achieved our objective?”

If the objective hasn’t been fully met, explore the gap, and discuss next steps.


Next Steps: Align with the Big Picture

When defining next steps, always keep the overall goal in mind. Consider asking questions like:

“What are the next steps which will have us

  • increase customer satisfaction by 4 points?”
  • become more efficient as a team?”
  • Successfully implement xyz software by end of June and within budget?”

Understanding the journey ahead allows us to define effective next steps. Moreover, linking these steps to a purpose increases commitment among team members.

After the Meeting

Most meetings would be a Loss of Time events if decisions were not implemented, if action items were not executed. Keeping track of tasks, following up is key to be effective.

To Do lists in minutes cannot be easily tracked.

While Excel provides some structure, it lacks true collaboration features. As many of us participate in multiple team settings, juggling various Excel files for daily or weekly planning becomes demanding. The risk of forgetting crucial tasks increases, potentially leading others to perceive us as unreliable.

Consider leveraging tools like Microsoft Planner or Google Tasks, depending on your office suite. These platforms offer:

  • Transparency: A clear view of all tasks within specific groups.
  • Collaboration: Documentation and notification functionalities support efficient collaboration
  • Reminders: Automatic notifications of due and overdue tasks make sure nothing gets forgotten.
  • Personal Overview: A consolidated view of tasks across distinct groups and self-assigned items is the basis for easy personal daily and weekly or even monthly planning. Planning makes us reliable, effective, efficient and provides peace of mind.

By adopting collaborative task management tools, we bridge the gap between intention and execution, ensuring reliability and productivity.



Meeting success starts with having a clear objective linked to bigger picture goals. All other steps depend on it.

Following the steps described will lead to

  • Better outcomes, better results or organisations and their projects
  • Avoidance of LoT and related opportunity costs
  • More control, more influence of those leading or steering the meeting process


Be the person enabling all of this, whether you organize meetings or participate! It is straightforward. It is easy for you to have a profound impact.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *