Want more efficient and productive meetings? Don’t allow laptops or cell phones.

Here’s the Connecticut state legislature in session. As you can see, at least a few of these legislators are playing solitaire. One lawmaker is checking out sports news. And those are just the laptop screens we can see! Who knows how many of the other legislators in this photo are goofing off on their computers when they’re supposed to be working?

When people bring laptops and phones into your meetings, they’re bringing in their entire social and professional worlds — games, news, email, Facebook (“… in a meeting and wishing I weren’t!”), etc. That’s just too many distractions.

Think of it this way. If you invite your entire team of, say, seven employees in for a one-hour meeting — and the meeting turns out to be completely unproductive — how much time have you wasted? Most people think it’s one hour. But actually, it’s eight or nine hours — an hour for each employee, plus an hour of your time for attending and maybe another hour or so in preparation for the meeting.

That’s a lot of your staff’s time, a lot of your organization’s time. You’re essentially making a decision when you gather all those folks in a room that your meeting is worth more to your team and organization than anything else your entire staff could be working on if they weren’t in that meeting. And the only way to make your meetings that productive and valuable is to make sure everyone is truly present. Limit distractions.

Now, if you need a computer in the room to research things that come up in discussion, fine. Designate someone to have a computer.

But your rule should be: Bring paper and pen – and your undivided attention.