Streamline your time with agenda lists

Marlo Oster
June 21, 2021
5
Minutes

Are you ready to get things done? We love lists, and while revisiting Getting Things Done from David Allen, we realized the dramatic impact of agenda lists. These lists pair simplicity with easy resource access. You make a list and unlock leadership superpowers to keep your meetings hyper-effective, and your staff engaged. Okay, it's not quite that easy. 


Using agenda lists can help managers reduce the pressure on their staff to constantly respond to emails, keep their meetings effective, and ensure they don’t forget topics they need to discuss. All of this leads to a lot of saved time.


We know that everyone can benefit from agenda lists, even if you don’t use the complete Getting Things Done system.

What is an agenda list?


An agenda list is an in-tray or home for all of your questions, thoughts, requests, and concerns that involve interacting with another person. It’s a reliable method for tracking anything that you might need to discuss with others. 


Many workplaces have unintentionally developed a culture of right-away-response, which comes with the side-effect of constant interruption. When managers and employees fire off quick questions, it pulls people away from their work for things that could, and maybe should, wait. Those questions, concerns, thoughts, and requests are important; they are not always urgent. 


The Wall Street Journal reported that Slack user’s median response time through 2020 was 16.3 minutes. The median email response time was 72 minutes.


When you run into a question that doesn't require an immediate response, add it to an agenda list for that person. That way, next time you see them or schedule a meeting, you can remember to address it. 


Thoughts that arise throughout the day don’t usually require immediate action. For example, a team using a large Excel workbook might need to create a dashboard sheet to spot key issues and daily performance. Managers don't need to get this project moving right now and might want to address the team collectively first.  


Handling requests almost always feels urgent because the request probably came from something you were actively working on. Imagine, as you start on your performance reviews, you realize Pete didn't send the log for his monitored calls. You could email him right now and pull him away from his current work or wait to request at your next scheduled meeting. 


Concerns are rarely something to discuss through email, but instant messengers have made it easier to connect from afar. Even if you've already touched base with a team member about a concern, put it on the agenda list to follow up. If you're worried about a staff member, it is even more important to connect with them consistently. 


How to make and use agenda lists


Agendas function on a per-meeting basis, but agenda lists occur for each person or team you meet with regularly. You might have a separate agenda list for each team member and one for the group collectively. 


What can you put on your agenda lists?

  • Planned discussion points

  • Concerns 

  • Questions

  • Information requests

  • Open projects

  • Ideas to explore


WorkPatterns is all about effective meetings, and one of the ways we do that is with suggested topics and pre-built templates. 


An agenda list for a team member might look like this:



Recurring 1:1 questions


  • What’s on your mind?


  • Open projects


  • Goals


  • Where do you need support? Is something blocking your work?


  • Top 3 priorities 


To Address


  • You verbally requested a day off next month, but I can't remember the date.


  • Really quiet in morning huddles lately. Let's talk about why. 


  • I can't find a spreadsheet with contact touchpoints. Where is that? Not urgent.


  • New software 


Ultimately, you can add, subtract, and modify anything on an agenda list up until you’re ready to create an agenda for a meeting and share it with the attendees. Sometimes, such as with a one-on-one meeting, you might choose to have a collaborative agenda list. In that case, as you add to the agenda, you might receive quick answers or resolutions, allowing for an evolving agenda.

Reclaim in-meeting time with agenda lists 


Any successful meeting will require structure, purpose, and engagement, which is why we turn to agendas. If you're missing any of these key ingredients, then you're losing time. Skip the topics you’ve already discussed, address questions directly, and plan out action items with precision.  Uses these steps to reclaim time. 


Take action now  


Use your agenda list to focus on actions you can take now while also reducing interruptions. It's possible to work on elements that don't require collaborative planning. For example, a manager might ask IT to install new software after an employee's shift, set a date for a staff party, or start their performance reviews. These are all things that do need discussion, but they don't need to wait. Why tell an employee that they'll have new software soon when the step that affects them is when they'll receive training for the latest software. Or, why tell staff that they'll have performance reviews coming up if you can begin now and check in on this topic during one on one meetings


Use your agenda list to capture discussion items. And, review it regularly to ensure that you’re not keeping tasks waiting when the meeting could cultivate engagement with more complete information.


Prepare properly 


Preparation can give meetings the structure they need for genuine and consistent success. When you work from an agenda list, as you build any agenda, you can address all of those potential interruptions or distractions. 


Here are a few ways to use your agenda lists to prepare:

  • Send an email listing out questions the other person might be able to resolve quickly and aren’t critical discussion points for your meeting. 


  • Build a collaborative agenda with attendees. Input your discussion topics and questions, then engage through comments.  


  • Add action items into your agenda or agenda system. 


  • Gather resource materials and ensure that attendees have access to materials that will help them prepare for the meeting. 


Add resources directly to your agenda list with notes, file directories, attachments, or snippets. What else should you prep?


  • Company announcements or updates


  • Changes within the team


  • Milestone accomplishments


  • Updates to company policies or procedures


  • Information that can serve the employee’s professional or personal development 


  • Notes tied to your agenda list

Collaborate with a subject matter expert


Managers pull knowledge from across various departments and resources. A subject matter expert (SME) on a particular issue might be from another department entirely or dedicated to a different project. It is always great to have a SME in a meeting, but it is not always possible. 


You can check in with a SME before the meeting to add to your agenda list. Or, ask them to review some agenda list items with you. For example, you might call a SME or send an email asking them to send summaries on particular issues or reference material to help your team. 


Another way that SMEs can help improve your meeting is to ask them for explanations on their recent feedback or suggestions. Everyone can benefit from the power of understanding why something should happen a certain way. 


Make the most of your time with WorkPatterns


Ultimately, using simple solutions can help you extract the most value from your time when planning, hosting and following through with meetings. Collaborative and ongoing agenda building supports managers to keep meetings as an effective and efficient forum for meaningful communication. 


Working with a system can bring consistency and reliability into your meetings and regular interactions. Agenda lists work on individual and team levels, and it's surprising how much time a simple list can save when you:


  • Take control over non-urgent questions.


  • Move forward with small actions, so your meetings are high-impact.


  • Collaborate on agendas 


  • Pull resources that help attendees prepare and keep meetings on track. 


WorkPatterns enables managers to provide consistent one on one, solicit and give feedback, and instill accountability within their team.


Start having meetings that work together with WorkPatterns