Tell us if this sounds familiar. You need everyone to attend a big meeting, or get on a conference call, which means everyone’s going to be away from their desks for a few hours. The meeting is important, but so is the work that the meeting will interrupt.
There are ways you can address both needs at work. Below are tips on how to hold meetings while still keeping production on track, by improving efficiency, automation and through the use of technology.
- Review your internal processes. You might have some tasks that are part of your daily routine that you can do without. Once you know what they are, you can separate important tasks from ones that are no longer necessary.
- Delegate. Be sure to communicate with your team about what they can do to help streamline projects. Know what you can do yourself, and what will require reinforcements.
- Take breaks. This may sound contradictory, but sometimes you need to stop working to keep working. As Forbes says : “When sedentary, the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL), responsible for breaking down fat in the bloodstream and converting it to energy, drops off significantly, causing fat cells to build. In short, a lack of movement equals a decline in energy.”
- Plan your day around lunch. Many of us are sharper in the morning, so use that time for work that requires deep analysis and thought. Write reports and crunch numbers as soon as you sit down. After lunch, when you’ve refueled, focus on things that require you to interact and share ideas, such as meetings and conference calls.
- Make a list. Put everything you need to do in order of priority and the time it will take. As you check off each task, you can discover which times of day are the most productive.
- Automate social media tasks. Hootsuite  is probably the most well-known, but there are many other social media apps and tools  as well. For example, Buffer  allows you to schedule posts according to a specific pattern. So if you wanted to, say, post weekdays at 10 a.m., Buffer can help you do that. Another platform, Dlvr.it , allows you to sync your site with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Create templates for commonly used documents. Let’s say you send out the same type of invoice or letter every week. You can save time by creating a template for this, and then just need to fill in the appropriate names, dates and numbers.
- Use online calendars in the Cloud and share them. Sitting in meetings can take up time, but so can scheduling meetings. By letting your colleagues and your clients know what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be doing it, you can save a lot of back and forth emails and calls.
- Automate customer follow-up and similar tasks. After reviewing internal processes, you may find there are a number of reoccurring time wasting tasks you can automate  in 30 minutes or less.
- Create “canned” email responses for emails that require the same response time and again. That way you don’t have to type the same email every time you respond. Or better yet, if you are asked the same question time and again, create an FAQ page or document and publish it online or provide it to your colleagues, so the answers are on-hand and communication requirements are reduced.
- Place checklists in the Cloud so you can take them with you and share them. Forgett  allows you to share them or keep them private, and even lets you add animated gifs. And Checkli  has many of the same features, and allows you to create PDF versions of your lists.
- Get familiar with macros (aka shortcuts). Programs like Microsoft Word have macros as a built-in feature that lets users perform routine tasks automatically. It’s easy to create and customize them. Some are easy enough (control i for italics). Once you’ve got a handle on them, you’ll save time as you write. To learn more about creating macros for Microsoft Word, visit the Microsoft Office  support page. And in the spirit of this piece, save this info as a document and share it with your colleagues and staff to help them streamline their needs.
- If you want to learn how to make templates in Word, Excel or Powerpoint, your best bet is to see what Office has to say . Also, this article is useful because it focuses on team collaboration.
- Use accounting software to streamline invoicing and billing tasks. It’s not necessary to manually generate invoices for clients that are billed the same amount every month for the same service.
- Make use of labels, folders and tags in your email inbox. This helps to sort and organize items, and more importantly, it helps for speedy retrieval of messages.
Important things happen in your meetings, and it’s not a good idea to go into them worried about what you’ll be missing. By following a few of these tips on how to hold meetings, you’ll be able to cut down on some smaller tasks around the office in order to focus on larger ones in the board room.
Meeting  Image via Shutterstock