Why I Share the Agenda

✍️ Thomas Countz

Meetings, meetings, meetings! A day chopped up into a series of fits and starts where nothing gets finished and we all end up fatigued. (Sound familiar?) Although I long for a world where everyone can work at their own pace, for many of us, days like these are unavoidable.

Having been in charge of meetings on days like these, here’s what I try to do to make them better for everyone: Share the meeting’s agenda with everyone before you ask for their time.

A meeting agenda isn’t just a schedule—when I send a meeting invite to someone, I make it super clear why I’d like them to be there and if I need them to prepare anything. By sharing the agenda with a colleague, I let them decide if their presence is actually needed. Time is money, after all, and I wouldn’t mindlessly ask my colleagues for their money.

In the agenda, I include my best guess at the timing for the meeting, and during the meeting, I stick to it. Of course, when the ball gets rolling, it can be difficult to tell everyone to switch gears. To combat this feeling, I use this exact phrasing:

Out of respect for everyone’s time, it’s now 2:10pm and we planned to move on to ___. Any objections to moving on?

I do this to perpetuate a team culture in which meetings are not allowed to hold everyone hostage. If I run a meeting past schedule, then I’ve done a poor job planning; this is my problem to solve, and I’ll have to solve it on my own time (not while everyone is stuck in a room together).

One last thing, by sharing the agenda, I’m forced to write one. Placing this mindful barrier around scheduling a meeting in the first place, can help avoid them altogether. By the time I’ve clearly stated what I need from someone, they simply send me an email, and voilà—no meeting required.