Nitpickiness increasing over time in the name of productivity isn't necessarily good, but here's a first pass of some of the things that being short on time has taught me.
How to schedule and run meetings
- Ask yourself if you really need a meeting.
- No, seriously. People-time is valuable; will you get much more out of sitting together in person as opposed to emailing back and forth?
- Decide who really needs to come and who would be nice to have but not entirely vital; invite accordingly.
- When sending out a meeting request or invitation, don't say things like "we should get together sometime." Propose a time and location and set an expire date for RSVPs. Even if nobody likes your time, at least they'll be rejecting something concrete; if people like it, you have a date (instead of a bunch of people agreeing to set one). The same "be concrete" principle applies to the actual meeting as well.
- Send a (concise) agenda. Make it clear what the group is coming together to do, what the members should have done beforehand (pointers to how they can do it are especially helpful) and what you will accomplish by the time you leave.
- Lay ground rules at the beginning; state your purpose, insert discussion rules if needed, and then go.
- Be aware of tangents. Be aware of time. Make sure you accomplish your original purpose first; if you find yourself veering off, either agree to revise your original purpose to fit this or make a note and shelve the topic for another discussion.
- End as soon as you do not need everyone in the discussion; splitting into subgroups is ok, working on individual tasks is ok, but make it clear that they don't have to be sitting around the table drumming their fingers any longer.
- End on time or earlier. Everyone should walk out of the room with something to do.
- Take 15-30 minutes immediately after the meeting to send out minutes (concise!) and action items.
- Know when to break these rules.