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To Make Meetings Count, Don't Count Past One (Per Week) One mandatory meeting a week, with a reliable structure and distractions like cell phones and laptops forbidden, can be amazingly productive.

By Brad Heidemann

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We all know the feeling of looking at our calendars and realizing that a day of back-to-back meetings looms ahead. The panic sets in, knowing the whole day will be spent talking about what needs to be done, but not actually doing it. In fact, a 2013 study by found that the average office worker spends 16 hours in meetings every week.

As CEO of Tahzoo, a fast-growing 21st century CX agency, I recognized this struggle in my employee's (and my own) days. We were all trying to reclaim portions of the workday to truly focus on projects, devote our undivided attention to clients and check items off our ever-growing to-do lists. And it isn't just meetings and unsolicited invitations to "touch base' that bombard our calendars. The modern work place is full of distractions from mobile devices (that are constantly checked during meetings), to unexpected calls and requests to "check in' or get a "status update' without proper notice or preparation.

Many companies have implemented approaches to increase productivity. They've attempted to eliminate meetings, make them shorter, or designate Mondays as "Meeting Day." It simply isn't feasible to eliminate meetings altogether. But, how can you increase meeting productivity in your workforce?

1. Schedule just one meeting.

Rather than scheduling several 30-minute meetings throughout the week, consider holding one longer meeting (even two-three hours) when you can ensure that every action item is addressed. I hold one two-hour meeting with my senior team each Wednesday when we discuss everything that needs to be focused on that week.

Related: 5 Rules for Successful Meetings

2. Make it mandatory.

If you only have one meeting per week, attendance is especially important. No other commitments, even client meetings, should trump it.

3. Make it consistent.

The structure of the agenda for the weekly meeting should be the same each week so that all attendees come prepared and are accountable for their portion of the meeting. This also allows you to clearly track progress each week. In our weekly senior team meetings, we always discuss corporate vision and metrics, including everything from financial metrics to employee satisfaction surveys. That allows us to make sure we're not wasting time on unnecessary discussions, but rather mapping every aspect of the meeting back to the higher-level goals of the company.

Related: The 7 Must-Know Rules of Productive Meetings

4. Know your role.

Regardless of whether you are hosting a meeting or attending it, knowing one's role within a meeting is crucial to productivity.

If you're hosting, make sure you clearly outline the decision that needs to be made as a result of the meeting. Identify who needs to be present and, more importantly, who does not, in order to make that decision. Think about everything you'll need to address for that decision to be made, from data to previous presentations, and have it all on hand so not a minute of meeting time is lost (and so that a follow-up meeting doesn't need to be scheduled).

If you're attending a meeting, make sure you know exactly what your takeaway should be. Are you seeking feedback on a project? Then make sure you've already sent over the final copy for review at least a day prior to the meeting. Are you seeking approval on a decision that you're not qualified to make? Then come with a clear recommendation and details of all the moving pieces.

5. Remove the distractions.

In today's ultra-connected, multi-tasking business environment, we find many employees constantly checking email or devices. Consider making a no-devices rule. That's no laptops and no smartphones.

6. Invite the global team.

As organizations expand internationally, executives can be challenged with fostering a collaborative team across regions. Choose a time that works for everyone and use the weekly meeting to connect with colleagues in different geographies.

By scheduling just one, very focused meeting each week, you can vastly increase alignment, productivity and motivation across your team and gain valuable time back in your day.

Related: 4 Tips for Keeping It Real When Your Global Team Telecommutes

Brad Heidemann

CEO of Tahzoo

Brad has the unusual distinction of having had three careers prior to founding Tahzoo. He began his career in the display department at Nordstrom when they had seven stores. From there he rose to hold various leadership positions; playing an important role in delivering the customer service that would make Nordstrom a household name. Seeking a new challenge he moved to Microsoft where he learned how to leverage technology to achieve business goals. His third career started with Ascentium, a leading marketing agency; here he absorbed how to build brands and market products. Tahzoo is the culmination of these three careers: a passion for great customer experiences, the technology to enable their delivery, and the marketing insight to craft them.

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