Oprah Winfrey starts every meeting with these same 3 sentences

Kicking off meetings can be awkward — there might be chit-chat among colleagues about totally irrelevant topics since they’re all finally in the same space, and there are almost always stragglers and those who forget to call in well past the five-minute grace period. Somebody will probably forget to read the meeting agenda, someone will sit down anxiously in a rush back out there door and someone else will likely forget their notepad.

Even after the meeting finally commences, nine out of 10 people will daydream during it and 73 percent of people will work on other things during it.

That’s why Oprah Winfrey kicks off every meeting with the same three questions to get everyone engaged and to set clear intentions: “What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”

Brendon Burchard, author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, says Oprah starts every meeting with those questions because high performers seek clarity. Clarity isn’t something high performers get but, rather, it’s something they seek, Burchard explains. That’s why they consistently ask themselves the following four questions:

  • Self: How do you want to describe your ideal self?
  • Skills: What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate?
  • Social: How do you want to behave socially?
  • Service: What service do you want to provide?

Asking themselves these questions helps them to refocus. Likewise, asking questions to start off a meeting helps attendees to refocus.

In the US alone, Americans attend 11 million formal business meetings each day. That means that every meeting better be important, and the meeting agenda should be clear and simply stated. “Select date for the campaign launch,” for example. There shouldn’t be any “recap,” “review” or “discuss,” according to Burchard.

Following a detailed agenda and starting on time can reduce meeting times up to 80 percent. That’s important given that the time employees spend in meetings has risen around 10 percent each year, since 2000, which means that the average meeting length is between 31 to 60 minutes. 

Though 47 percent of Americans consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time, meetings can be necessary to advance a project or organization — so long as they’re constructive and intentional. If not, it doesn’t only affect the individuals involved, but we waste $37 billion every year on time that could have been better utilized.

With Oprah’s three questions, your next company meeting will be sure to result in decisions being made in an efficient manner.

AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She’s an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

Annamarie Houlis via Fairygodboss|is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel