Meetings are an interesting part of our work culture. It seems like most people hate them, and even then, we are very dependent on them.
The tricky part is that we need to have meetings. They are useful for making decisions, updating teams and briefing everyone. The negative part is when sessions last too long, or they just don't lead to any conclusions. When that happens, it can create frustration and even break structures.
A perfect meeting is one where you talk about what you need, hear the opinions you want, and make a conclusion. Anything else is off-topic and distractions.
To master it, we advise using the following chart. It categorises topics in four levels; essentials, secondary, details and off-topic.
These are all parts of the subject you need to discuss right away. Here you put everything that it's essential to the idea/topic you are having the meeting about. It's the basis, the core.
This category includes all the parts of the topic/idea that are not essentials, but that needs to be addressed just after the primary components. Make sure you don't jump into these before you have conclusions on the crucial parts. Depending on the subject, you might want to have a new meeting to discuss the secondary elements.
Be careful with this category. It's the one that can make us waste the most time. A lot of groups start discussing particulars before essentials or even secondary topics. It's better if you let small groups decide over details, and use the big team just to check on the first two categories.
Lastly, all the topics that don't have anything to do with the meeting. It's okay, don't feel bad, it happens to everyone. We all have meetings where the focus goes away for some time.
Next time you are feeling you are wasting your time in a meeting, check this chart and check what's the level you are discussing at the moment. Remember: keep conversations on essentials, never in details/off-topic.