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Sharpen your ax for effective meetingsLets play a little game.

Imagine you are in a forest. You need to chop down 40 trees.

It only takes you fifteen minutes to chop down the first ten trees – because you’ve got a sharp ax!

You could stop and sharpen your ax, but it takes half an hour – and you need to get on to tree chopping!

It takes you thirty minutes to chop down the next ten trees – because even sharp axes dull eventually.

You could stop and sharpen your ax, but it takes half an hour – and you need to get on to tree chopping!

It takes you two hours to chop down the next ten trees – because now you’re using an axe that resembles a butter knife.

You could stop and sharpen your ax, but it takes half an hour – and you need to get on to tree chopping!

It takes you an exhausting five hours to chop down the last ten trees.

All in all, it took you nearly eight hours.

Maybe you should have stopped and sharpened your ax?

Most of us are too busy chopping down trees trying to reach our quota to stop for a few minutes and sharpen our axes. We all know that, looking at our schedule, some meetings should be canceled, others are never run properly and should be improved on, and that in general, our meetings are poorly planned. We know what needs to be done – we know, in effect, how to sharpen our ax – but we don’t have the time to do it just now, right? We’ll do it tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

We’re always running to the next meeting (it doesn’t have an agenda? Never mind, NEXT time we’ll fix this), or quickly setting up the weekly company meeting (we don’t remember the tasks from the last one? It’s OK, THIS time we’ll write everything down), and we are way too busy to stop and do something which isn’t work-related.

But if we stop to sharpen our ax NOW, we will save time. Lots of time. Just look at the tree chopping exercise above. Instead of working for eight hours, we could have worked for much less, and had a sharp ax at the end to show for it.

So stop. Today. Put aside your meetings for two hours. Learn how to manage them better.

And sharpen your ax.