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13 Oct

How to make sure you come prepared to the meeting

Datum: 2022-10-13 11:00
Four people in a meeting shot from above.

Arriv­ing at a meet­ing out of breath and painful­ly aware that you have not had the time to read the mate­r­i­al you were sup­posed to have gone through pre­vi­ous to the meet­ing, isn’t that great.

We might try to briefly skim through the mate­r­i­al as every­one is get­ting seat­ed, but we are not real­ly absorb­ing all the infor­ma­tion we need to. We try to keep up the appear­ance of hav­ing pre­pared through­out the meet­ing and silent­ly hope that we are not asked some­thing that might expose our lack of preparation.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

I think most peo­ple would agree that arriv­ing to a meet­ing ful­ly pre­pared is def­i­nite­ly prefer­able, but how do you make time for prop­er prepa­ra­tion? How are we sup­posed to set aside time when we have lit­tle time to spare, con­sid­er­ing all the oth­er things we have to do right now?

And not to men­tion the great num­ber of meet­ings we need to pre­pare for…

A lit­tle less con­ver­sa­tion, a lit­tle more action

Con­clud­ing that we all need to pre­pare bet­ter until the next meet­ing” as the gath­er­ing comes to a close is rarely enough, even though we all agree that we need to get our act togeth­er”. The solu­tion is to cre­ate a new habit, one that cre­ates the right pre­req­ui­sites and cir­cum­stances allow­ing for us to read the mate­r­i­al well ahead of the meeting.

Three habits worth establishing

Here are three prac­ti­cal and sim­ple habits you can begin to estab­lish, if you have not already done so:

  1. Make note of to-do-tasks as soon as pos­si­ble — At the end of every meet­ing, make note of what your next steps will be. For­mu­late them just as clear­ly and dis­tinct­ly as you usu­al­ly for­mu­late your to-do-tasks. As quick­ly as pos­si­ble, prefer­ably before head­ing off to the next meet­ing, write these tasks on your to-do-list so that they are includ­ed in your dai­ly pri­or­i­ti­za­tion process, and you hence avoid arriv­ing to the meet­ing next time real­iz­ing that you should have done some­thing impor­tant which you acci­den­tal­ly neglect­ed.

    Make par­tic­u­lar note of if a next step implies that you have to read some­thing, even if you have not received the mate­r­i­al in ques­tion yet, but will receive it from the per­son in charge of the upcom­ing meet­ing as it is approach­ing. Add these read­ing-tasks to your to-do-list as well since read” is a verb just as write”, call” and e‑mail”, and hence read­ing mate­r­i­al should also be con­vert­ed into a to-do-task.
  2. Sched­ule time to pre­pare — When you receive a request to attend a meet­ing and it is clear that there are things you need to pre­pare or read pri­or to it, sched­ule time in your cal­en­dar for the time required for prepa­ra­tion. What you agree to when accept­ing to attend the meet­ing is actu­al­ly not only the meet­ing itself, but also the time required for prepa­ra­tion, which makes it no more than fair that the time for the entire engage­ment is account­ed for in your cal­en­dar. If you have not done this before, then sched­ule more time than you esti­mate you might need to pre­pare in so that you rather have time to spare than feel crunched for time if you should have mis­judged the amount of time need­ed.

    When you are choos­ing and sched­ul­ing the time and place for read­ing or prepar­ing, con­sid­er if you some time soon will be in a sit­u­a­tion or con­text when there is not much else to do but sit and wait. Will you be in tran­sit? On a train? On a flight with­out WiFi? If so, choose this as your prep-time since the read­ing and prepar­ing then will not have to com­pete for your atten­tion with as many tasks on your to-do-list as it oth­er­wise nor­mal­ly does. Many peo­ple I meet tend to not regard read­ing as a prop­er task, and hence do not pri­or­i­tize it enough.
  3. Make it a habit to once a week skim through the cal­en­dar to get an overview of the month ahead — Make men­tal note of what meet­ings are approach­ing. If you real­ize that you have to pre­pare some­thing spe­cial for any of the meet­ings, for­mu­late the nec­es­sary prepa­ra­tions as a to-do task and put it on your to-do list. If you want to make sure that the task is com­plet­ed in time, sched­ule doing it in your cal­en­dar or for­mu­late clear­ly to your­self exact­ly when and in what sit­u­a­tion you intend to do the prepa­ra­tions (a so called imple­men­ta­tion inten­tion).

Pre­pared rather than postponed

If you deter­mine to change some­thing con­crete in your dai­ly rou­tines (such as for instance imple­ment­ing and estab­lish­ing the three habits men­tioned above) instead of just promis­ing that you will be bet­ter pre­pared next time, you will to a greater extent suc­cess­ful­ly pre­pare your­self for meet­ings in the future.

Your meet­ings will be slight­ly more effi­cient as a result of you improv­ing your prepa­ra­tion-strate­gies, and if you are lucky, oth­er par­tic­i­pants of meet­ings you reg­u­lar­ly attend will fol­low your good exam­ple. Less stress, more pro­duc­tive meet­ings and faster results ought to be the results of these changes.

What is your method?

These were just three sim­ple things you can do to improve your sit­u­a­tion and work­ing meth­ods. Do you have anoth­er way of ensur­ing that you arrive at every meet­ing pre­pared? Tell me!

(Do you know that there are things you can do to get less tired dur­ing dig­i­tal meet­ings?)

An open book floating in the air in a library.

If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

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