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If you put meeting items in the ‘parking lot,’ make sure you return to them at the end.

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Consultant Kevin Eikenberry says the most misused tool in meetings is the "parking lot," the holding ground for tangential topics that are raised but are viewed as better to be assessed on another occasion.

Parking ideas offside is great tool for keeping meetings on track, Mr. Eikenberry says on his blog. But too often, leaders have no plans to actually revisit the matters they have sidetracked; they really use it as a tactic to get rid of matters they don't want to discuss at all, he says. Even leaders who have good intentions forget about the parking-lot issues in the rush to conclude a meeting. The result: The parking lot becomes viewed as a sham.

He urges you to be disciplined about the parking lot, scheduling a few minutes at the end of the meeting to review whether the matters in it are still an issue (perhaps some were resolved in deciding the overall topic). Check if there is an action item that can be created from each parking-lot issue or whether the topic needs to be on a future meeting agenda.

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Make sure that some next step is developed for every parking-lot issue, even if it's nothing more than having it continue to stay offside until addressed more fully at the next meeting.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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