Billionaire Ray Dalio: The No. 1 reason meetings are a waste of time (and what to do about it)

Ray Dalio
Cameron Costa | CNBC

Everyone knows what it's like to suffer through a long, pointless meeting at work, one where you restlessly count the minutes until you can go back to your desk and actually get something done.

For Ray Dalio, a billionaire investor who founded Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund, lousy meetings are unacceptable.

Over his decades long career in finance, Dalio paid attention to what makes meetings unproductive and realized the worst ones were "emotional, chaotic and illogical, with people who thought very differently and didn't know the art of thoughtful disagreement," he tells CNBC Make It.

So Dalio created a system of best practices to run more successful meetings. "I learned to pause and review the ground rules for how we should be with each other, how to disagree and how to get beyond our disagreements well," he says.

Those ground rules are explained in depth in Dalio's 2017 book, "Principles: Life & Work." But the root problem with bad meetings is simple.

"There are many reasons why meetings go poorly, but frequently it is because of a lack of clarity about the topic or the level at which things are being discussed," Dalio writes in "Principles." "Every meeting should be aimed at achieving someone's goals; that person is the one responsible for the meeting and decides what they want to get out of it."

To conduct better meetings, Dalio offers these four pieces of advice anyone can use.

1. Make sure everyone is on the same page

Use simple language to help cut down on unnecessary back-and-forth.

"It is often best to repeat a specific question to be sure both the questioner and responder are crystal clear on what is being asked and answered," Dalio writes in "Principles."

And, avoid emotional exchanges. "People's emotions tend to heat up when there is disagreement," he explains. "Remain calm and analytical at all times...."

2. Use a whiteboard to stay on track

Groups of people tend to distract each other. This results in something called "topic slip," Dalio writes.

"Topic slip is random drifting from topic to topic without achieving completion on any of them," according to Dalio. "One way to avoid it is by tracking the conversation on a whiteboard so that everyone can see where you are."

3. Assign follow up

When making decisions in a group, it is important to hold someone responsible for each of the resulting tasks. Otherwise, the office will run into trouble with follow-through.

"Too often groups will make a decision to do something without assigning personal responsibilities, so it is not clear who is supposed to follow up by doing what," Dalio writes. "Be clear is assigning personal responsibilities."

4. Use the "two-minute rule"

Everyone wants their ideas to be heard, but no one wants their time to be abused. Dalio's solution is called the "two-minute rule."

"The two-minute rule specifies that you have to give someone an uninterrupted two minutes to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own," Dalio explains. "This ensures that everyone has time to fully crystallize and communicate their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice."

Don't miss: Billionaire Ray Dalio: You need to quit these 2 bad habits to succeed

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Billionaire hedge fund founder Ray Dalio uses 'radical transparency' to deliver feedback—here's how it works
Ray Dalio
Cameron Costa | CNBC
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