Why Your Next Meeting Needs a To Do List: Boosting Workplace Productivity

Why Does Your Business Need a To Do List? Moving Creative Ideas From Conception to Completion is the Key Marker for Professional Success.

We’ve all been there. You sit down with inspired, like-minded folks to collaborate on a personal or professional adventure and the ideas start pouring forth like manna from heaven. Creativity is at an all-time high, you’re blasting through obstacles to map out the big picture and passion runs deep as your visions come to life right before your eyes. You’re about to be a part of something big. This is really happening!

And then you leave the meeting.

Why Your Next Meeting Needs a To Do List

What happens now? What was that plan again? What do I need to do next? Do I need to make that phone call or is she doing it? Wait, what did we say? Didn’t you mean this? I’m confused.

How do you channel that ball of ambitious energy into clearly defined, actionable items that boost productivity and actually get things done? How do you make sure that every attendee took away the same information? Using a simple to do list can set clear expectations that will provide purpose and planning to take your creative ideas from conception to completion.

Define: State Your Intentions

The pre-meeting to do list

A simple to do list can boost productivity before your meeting even begins. Set the stage for focused energy by clearly defining the purpose of your meeting and what you need to accomplish during your time together. Be intentional by listing each objective concisely and directly. This allows attendees to modify their expectations and prepare appropriately, which will boost productivity and set the stage for an effective business meeting. A pre-meeting to do list might look something like this:

To Do List

  1. Choose an Event Date
  2. Identify 4 Potential Venues
  3. Assign Clients for Sponsorship Requests
  4. Design Website Copy for the Development Team

Focus: Stay the Course

The in-meeting to do list

The largest threat to an effective meeting that must accomplish the pre-defined objectives is the rabbit trail. When ideas are freely flowing and excitement begins to build, focus can easily shift to new ideas and projects that don’t line up with the original intent for meeting. While these ideas and projects may be fantastic and deserve attention, they don’t serve a purpose for the here and now.

There are two ways to steer attendees back on course while also acknowledging the potential that was discovered off task. While losing focus is definitely a fundamental mistake that restricts present productivity, ignoring truly creative ideas that pop up unexpectedly can also be a misstep for future productivity. You can have the best of both worlds.

Most importantly, a strong leader must be present and able to capture the attention of the group with ease and authority. A productive meeting is not a dictatorship, it’s a democracy. An appropriate leader respects that every attendee has a voice, but can and will take action to gracefully shift the team back to the task at hand.

To Do List

Create a “call box” for off task ideas that deserve attention and have potential, but not at that moment in that meeting. If brainstorming sparks an organic topic that could develop into an action plan for the future, reserve the right to pause conversation, take note on your to do list that an item has been placed in the call box, with the collaborative agreement that it warrants more discussion at a later date.

To do lists are essential to channeling focused productivity in any meeting. It should be an extension of the pre-meeting to do list, with a bit more depth and direction for the allotted time. An in-meeting to do list might look something like this:

  • Choose an Event Date
    1. Decide between weekend or weekday
    2. Discuss seasonal obstacles
      1. Tourist season
      2. Weather preferences
      3. Competing events
    3. List top 3 potential dates
  • Identify 4 Potential Venues
    1. Review team recommendations
    2. Narrow down the list for second round review
    3. Consider potential obstacles
      1. Budget
      2. Size
      3. Layout
      4. Parking
      5. Permits
    4. Make final selections for future review
  • Assign Clients for Sponsorship Requests
    1. Split client list by industry type
      1. Medical
      2. Legal
      3. Corporate
    2. Review sponsorship packages
    3. Create teams
  • Design Website Copy for the Development Team
    1. Brainstorm landing pages
    2. Identify appropriate content
    3. List call to action opportunities

Assign: Time to Take Action

The take home to do list

The objectives accomplished in any meeting serve one important purpose – to identify the tasks that must be completed next in order to move forward with a project or directive. Meetings are set with the specific intention to collaborate and convert on a common goal. The only way to be sure what is discussed is then actualized in an efficient and productive manner is to create the take home to do list.

Boosting Productivity

As you move through your in-meeting to do list, have a corresponding list prepared that will provide specific assignments that achieve your in-meeting objectives. Be as detailed as possible, and focus on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals that are measurable and time driven. After the meeting, make sure each attendee is given a copy of the take home to do list so that everyone remains on the same page and has a clearly defined reference. A take home to do list might look something like this:

  • Event Venue
      1. Call all 4 venues
        1. Confirm date availability
        2. Schedule walk throughs
        3. Provide feedback on each venue to team at next meeting with final recommendation
  • Client Sponsorships
    1. ACTION ITEM: Team Assignments
      1. Medical: MOLLY and SAM
      2. Legal: JACK and LISA
      3. Corporate: LINDA and BOB
        1. Pitch sponsorship opportunities to 15 clients each
          1. All initial asks must be done within 1 week
        2. Update master list with end results (Success/Fail)
  • Website Copy
      1. Create website mock up (layout) for three pages as an example (Make final selection for template, font, color scheme)
      1. Develop website copy for 2 main landing pages
      1. Create 4 blog posts for publication when website goes live
      1. Connect with Development to set up a meeting 3 weeks from now
  • Call Box Items – Assigned to the agenda for 2/25/15 meeting
    1. Event Catering (Dale’s BBQ is running a special through June)
    2. Interns (Local college could supply for parking/tickets/etc.)

Report: The Results Are In

The post-meeting to do list

Meeting coordination often drops off after the last person leaves the conference room. To this point, you have defined your objectives for the meeting, worked through your task list, and assigned appropriate projects. All done, right?

Female Architect - To Do List

Wrong. Accountability is the last piece of puzzle for long-term success and is the fire that can boost productivity and keep team members on task long after the meeting has come to a close. Proper team communication means continuing the conversation at a later date to bring your original objectives full circle to completion. Developing a list of results not only provides a sense of satisfaction as the team moves closer to the end goal, but can also identify potential areas that need more attention in future meetings.

This type of follow up does not have to be absolute or even announce full completion. It is simply a method of reporting progress to the team to keep the lines of communication open. A post-meeting to do list might look something like this:

  • Date and Venue: KELLY
    1. Venue A – Contacted – Meeting 3/15
    2. Venue B – Contacted – Date Unavailable
    3. Venue C – Met 3/12 – Good candidate
    4. Venue D – Met 3/13 – Not big enough
  • Client Sponsorships
    1. Medical: MOLLY and SAM
      1. 25 contacted
        1. 20 yes
        2. 5 no
      2. 8 calls scheduled
      3. 2 in person meetings scheduled
    2. Legal: JACK and LISA
      1. 18 contacted
        1. 14 no
        2. 4 yes
      2. 10 calls scheduled
      3. Working to identify more clients
    3. Corporate: LINDA and BOB
      1. Linda – Vacation this week – Back next week
      2. Bob
        1. 8 calls made – pending response
        2. 12 contacted
          1. 9 yes
          2. 3 no

Who Knew?

A Simple To Do List is a Powerful Asset

In a world where technology is constantly evolving and new methods of communication are being introduced to market at rapid fire pace, who knew that you could boost productivity with a simple to do list? The US Navy was spot on when they developed the K.I.S.S. principle (“Keep it Simple, Stupid”) in 1960. Avoid unnecessary complexity and stick to the basics.

The to do list is a powerful asset for any meeting and can be the catalyst for forward momentum that keeps your team members informed, motivated and on task. The to do list has one purpose – to get things done. There’s simply no better way to boost productivity than using this type of laser beam focus to achieve results efficiently and effectively.

How to Use a To Do List to Boost Productivity at Your Next Meeting


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