As a remote worker, you’ll likely find that you’re invited to or are tasked with running a lot of meetings throughout the workday. Because there aren’t any opportunities for virtual employees to casually drop by a coworker’s desk to get an update on a project, or quickly check in with a team member while walking to the office kitchen for a morning coffee, you may feel like you have no choice but to send and accept a million calendar invites a day.

But here’s the thing…meetings can end up being a huge waste of time if they’re not done correctly. And too often that’s the case. In fact, when you Google the term “work meetings are” the first auto-suggested result is: “work meetings are unproductive.”

To actually make meetings worth your while, you need to be able to retain the information shared during meetings so you can refer back to it later, or pass it along to the rest of your team. Seems obvious—but this can be quite difficult when you’re on call after call after call throughout the day. Our brains can only consume and recall so much!

So, to make the most of meetings as a remote worker, we recommend you take the following three simple steps:

1. Only meet if/when you really need to.

Before you propose a meeting, consider whether it’ll really be the best use of your time, and of those you plan to invite. Ask yourself: “Can I easily send an email instead of calling a meeting about this?” If the answer is yes, skip it! Also, think about the nature of what it is you want to discuss. If you need to share big (or bad) news, for example, a meeting might be more appropriate. But if you have a smaller announcement that probably won’t yield a bunch of questions, send an email or instant message.

And when you’re on the other side—meaning, you’re asked to join a meeting—think about whether your presence is necessary. Sure, sometimes you can’t decline an invite, but other times you can. Really consider whether you need to attend and if the host would understand your decision to decline their invite.

If you ultimately decide it makes more sense to sit one out, ask a colleague to send you notes afterward so you can see what you missed!

2. Have an agenda and take notes.

If you’re running the meeting—whether it’s with a big group, or a one-on-one—it’s smart to have an agenda. This can help you plan and stay on track.

If possible, send the agenda out to your guests beforehand. This will allow them to come better prepared with ideas and/or questions…and also help them decide if they even need to be there.

Another way to make meetings more useful and productive: notes! In a group meeting, you can ask one person to be the notetaker and share with everyone during or after the call.

There are some easy ways to do this! Dropbox, for example, offers a free collaboration platform called Paper, which also offers a handy meeting minute and agenda template. Within a Paper doc, you can tag specific team members, assign tasks, and add deadlines and due dates. You can also connect Paper to your calendar, which can help you stay organized.

Having an agenda and taking notes that you can share with everyone makes it much easier to be efficient and resourceful during and after meetings.

3. Follow up.

So many meetings feel super productive at the time, but then nothing ever comes of them. For instance, you might have a fantastic brainstorming session with your team during which you come up with a list of project ideas for the next quarter…but if there’s no follow-up, everyone may forget about them and they’ll likely never come to fruition.

So, a great way to follow up after a call or video conference is to share those notes you took, and/or send a follow-up email in which you pull out some highlights from the notes doc. It’s a helpful way to remind people of what was discussed, and an opportunity to propose any next steps or deadlines, etc., if you haven’t already.

You can either do this immediately after, or a day or two later, depending on the nature of the meeting. Set a reminder to send a follow-up email or to schedule a follow-up meeting (if necessary), so you don’t forget! And then continue following up for as long as you need to.

Meetings don’t have to be a soul-sucking, dreaded work activity. They don’t have to be a huge waste of time or money for companies. Turns out, they can be very productive and effective—and even fun!—if you handle them correctly.

Readers: Do you have any tips for making meetings more productive and/or collaborative? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below!

This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are Remote.co’s. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.

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