If you’re like most of us, your weekly calendar is full of meetings. Whether it’s a scheduled company check-in or meeting prospective clients it’s often difficult to gauge their importance. Nonetheless we tend to participate in nearly every meeting that’s scheduled for us. That said, it’s extremely important to determine ways that you can have more productive meetings. Here are a five ways you can do exactly that.

Don’t Always Say ‘Yes’

One of the best things you can do to be more productive in the meetings you attend is to simply have less of them. Let’s be honest, if you’re sitting in conference rooms or on calls all day you can’t possibly expect to be fully attentive all day. Truth is, a fair amount of meetings we’re required to attend aren’t necessary. In fact, they are actually costing us (or the company) money.

If you feel strongly that you can’t provide measurable value by attending a meeting simply say ‘No’. One of the greatest skills in business is to know your personal value and abilities. If your time is better spent elsewhere it’s up to you to make that decision.

Always Announce a “Hard-Stop”

A hard stop is a term that means exactly what it sounds like. If you announce a hard-stop that means the meeting has no flexibility to go beyond the allotted time. This makes everyone in attendance more efficient since they know the exact amount of time they have. If your meetings are constantly running five or ten minutes over then you’re making a big mistake.

That all said there will be times when your meeting runs over by a few minutes, which is okay. The point is the more disciplined you are about sticking to your allotted time the better you’ll be able to gauge timing for future meetings. The better you are at that the more efficient your schedule will be.

Use Meeting Time for Decisions, Not Information

When you call a meeting you should always try to use that time to make decision rather than share information. Whether it’s through email, Slack, or any other collaboration platform you should share all relevant information prior to your meeting. Then, once the team is gathered use the time you have to lay out clear asks and make final decisions based on this new information.

Table Off-Topic Conversations Immediately

When you call a meeting you should set a very clear agenda. As the meeting progresses you need to stick to that agenda as close as possible. Often times conversations get side tracked. When this happens it’s really important to table those discussions for a later time. If you simply shut them down, then your attendees will feel disrespected. When you table the conversation you’re keeping people on topic while letting the individual know their point is still valid.

Try a Walking Meeting

The office lifestyle can get very stagnant. Now that we have standing desks everywhere it’s getting a bit better. However when we meet it’s usually limited to sitting around a conference table. A great way to have a change of pace (no pun intended) is to get out and have a walking meeting. This obviously won’t work if it’s a large group but for one on one or a few person meeting this is a great way to change things up.

Final Thoughts

There’s no secret sauce to having productive meetings. Sometimes people just aren’t ‘feeling it’. That said there are definitely strategies you can use to get your team motivated to tackle the tasks at hand. If you’re having stagnant meetings use some of the five tips above to get those energy levels up!