Let’s talk about meetings. And while we’re at it, let’s talk about meeting fatigue. Nearly two-thirds of professionals lose time every week due to unnecessary or cancelled meetings, according to The State of Meetings Report 2019, a survey by Doodle.

But try to run a business without any meetings, and you’ll soon have a new appreciation for those gatherings around the conference room table. Sometimes, there’s no better way to communicate than to get everyone in a room together, or at least on a conference call or Zoom meeting.

The trick is convening meetings only when necessary and running them efficiently. That way, everyone will still be able to get their work done. Here are some ideas on when, where and how to hold meetings for the best results.

Give people time to work.

Thanks to books like Cal Newport’s Deep Work, many professionals are making a concerted effort to set aside time to immerse themselves in the projects that matter. It’s tough to do that, though, if there are so many interruptions in everyone’s workday that no one can concentrate.

Set aside some time every week (or ideally every day) when people can hunker down and do what you’re paying them to do, without interruption. For instance, if you run a professional services firm, you might decide there will be no company or client meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, so everyone can focus on project work.

Team members will be more likely to bring their A-game to meetings if you’ve enabled them to get their other projects done. Otherwise, you’ll likely find them surreptitiously multitasking on their computer during your team pow-wows.

Create a quick daily ritual.

Setting aside seven to 10 minutes a day for your leadership team to meet can save you hours of emailing or digital chatting each day and prevent miscommunication. Ideally, hold this meeting in the morning, before everyone gets busy with the daily hustle. Among professionals surveyed in The State of Meetings Report 2019, 70% prefer to hold meetings between 8 am and noon.

Even better, have everyone stand up, so the meeting doesn’t drag on. A recent study found that 35% of American workers say most meetings last too long. Holding stand-up meetings is a good way to discourage people from droning on and on.

Save strategic meetings for one a month, quarter or year.

It’s hard to tackle monthly, quarterly, or annual planning in routine meetings. Set aside specific times when you will meet for an hour or two—or longer if needed—to do long-term strategic planning with your leadership team. In Doodle’s State of Meetings Report, two-thirds of professionals felt that meeting face to face is important to making good strategic decisions.

Make sure you set goals for the meeting ahead of time so team members come prepared. For instance, let’s say you’re expanding your B2B business from Chicago and Albany in the U.S. to the Canadian market this year and have already established a foothold in Toronto. Don’t wait until the next meeting to announce you want to focus on expanding into Montreal in your next discussion. Let your team know in advance, so they can do some homework related to their area of the business, whether that’s setting up the tech infrastructure for the new Montreal office or identifying the best way to market in Montreal.

Set aside time for R&D.

In the rush to get things done every day, your team may not have much time to brainstorm new products and services or better ways to do things. That means your business is not benefiting from their innovative ideas.

One of the best ways to tap into their creativity is to set aside some time to dream up ideas together to grow your business. To get your creative juices flowing, pick a different setting than your conference room, like a local park, or plan the meeting around a fun field trip, perhaps to a zoo, a national park in your area or an art museum. If it’s warm out, hold the meeting outside.  

Ask everyone to come prepared with ideas for innovations they’d like to bring to the business, appoint someone the record keeper and keep track of each idea you decide to act on, assigning it to an “owner” on your team and setting a date for the next steps. That way, all of the great ideas won’t get forgotten by the time you get back to the office. Holding a meeting like this once a quarter can yield huge dividends for your business.

Most of us don’t like meetings, but if you can figure out how to keep them purposeful and fun, you’ll be surprised at how much benefit they can bring to your business.