Yesterday, I gave you the two questions I ask to get out of attending meetings, but what about the ones we have to attend? How can we make the meetings called by other people bearable without taking it over an running it ourselves? The best advice I’ve ever heard comes from Tony Robbins and it’s solid gold for having more productive meetings. Again, ask two questions at the beginning.

Question One: What’s Our Outcome?

What a powerful question to ask! Establishing at the beginning what the outcome of the meeting should be is a great way to keep the meeting on track. If we’re meeting to make a decision, there will inevitably be a lot of debate and give and take. Knowing the outcome allows us to reign in dead-end discussions and trivial time wasters. Knowing our outcome will keep us focused on why we’re meeting, to begin with, and should be the very first thing we establish. When everyone is clear on what we’re after, we stand a much better chance of making it happen and avoiding that dread of another pointless meeting.

Question Two: What’s Our Time Frame?

I’m a big proponent of the one hour rule when it comes to meetings. Adults only have so much mental bandwidth to throw at an issue before our minds just completely give out. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. That’s why getting agreement upfront about how long a meeting will go is such an important concept. When we know we only have an hour, we become much more focused. Side discussions dissipate and we tend to focus on what really matters. On top of all of this, getting agreement upfront helps the organizer of the meeting understand that our time is valued too. Sure, we want to contribute and we want to help accomplish big things, but we have full plates too with a backlog of details we have to attend to. Get agreement upfront and the meetings are more productive, less wasteful and most importantly less stressful and that’s why it’s such a powerful question to ask.

We’re going to get pulled into meetings. That’s just a fact of life. There are, however, steps we can take to make the most of them. Knowing our outcomes and timeframes are important first steps to reclaiming life outside of business meeting hell. Give it a shot, because after all, it works for Tony Robbins.