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An agenda is part of a meeting’s building blocks.
Distractions are a sledgehammer.
I’m not talking about subjects that come up during meetings that aren’t on the agenda. These things are perfectly natural, as people discuss items. Sometimes, you want to put it in the parking lot. Other times, you’ll add it the agenda and discuss it. I’m talking about, shall we say, third-part distractions.
‘This won’t take a second’
How many times have you been in a meeting, where one of the attendee’s (or worse, the meeting organizer’s) mobile phone started ringing? Sometimes they ‘have to take this call, it won’t be a minute’, and sometimes they’ll just mutter ‘oh, it’s them again’, but whatever the case, it’s a distraction.
‘Sorry, didn’t know you were in a meeting’
Another common distraction are people coming into the meeting room. Even best case scenarios, which I have seen time and again, have the people apologizing for interrupting, and explaining that it isn’t that urgent and that they’ll come back later. Invariably, the person they come to see will ask them what it’s about, so they answer, and apologize again, and so on. A HUGE distraction.
‘I’ll just field this one’
Chats. What is it about Instant Messages – and they can be GTalk, Facebook messages, or Skype alerts, that make us want to see what they are immediately? In any case, they cause distractions. The person replying to his messages isn’t listening to you, isn’t contributing to the discussion, and certainly won’t be able to help with any decisions that you have to make.
Most of them are up to you to resolve. Hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door. Mute your phone. Turn off your IM. Do whatever it takes – because the meeting is important. These distractions aren’t.