This Radical “No Phone” Rule Can Massively Increase Meeting Productivity. It’s Ridiculously Simple.

A short while ago, I wrote about the bane of too many meetings — and how to politely, but effectively, cut an unnecessary chunk out of your day-to-day schedules.

Still, meetings persist — and they should. There are some things that need in-person (or virtual) conversation, especially when complicated or nuanced topics are involved that fold in expertise from across a company. Major decision often warrant meetings, too; when the potential ripple effects are great, it’s best to make sure all information is weighed carefully before making a big decision.

The problem is, meetings — even necessary ones — often yield no benefit. According to an in-depth look at meeting culture in The Harvard Business Review, 71% of surveyed managers said their meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

As I discuss in the article noted above, part of this simply has to do with the onslaught of communication. We’re always fielding messages, calls, notes, pings, etc. asking us to do something. And work culture has shifted to the point that we’re expected to juggle all of this while magically getting our work done. In other words, focus is out the door. And when you can’t focus, cognitive acuity — and quality — drops.

So back to those necessary meetings. If we must have them, let’s make the most of them. Let’s remove unnecessary distractions so conversation and discernment are fruitful.

How? Remove your phones from meeting rooms.

You’ve probably seen this tactic used during some social settings where friends collect phones in a basket by the door or in the center of a table. These can then be retrieved when someone leaves or the evening is over. The goal, of course, is to make the social event the focus — not the constant buzz of phones.

Try the same things in your meetings. Ask your employees to put your phones on silent and tuck away in a drawer (if the meeting is virtual) or collect phones and put in a basket/box if meeting in person. When the meeting is over, they can retrieve their phones.

If you need access to the internet to research on the fly, appoint a “researcher” who will keep his/her phone with them to look up any necessary information.

Simple, indeed, but one more very powerful way to ensure that our focus remains on the task or conversation at hand. As leaders, it’s important to build a culture of focus (not communication juggling) upfront — and it starts with a simple mantra: “Yes, that [ping/text/message/call] can wait.”

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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