Shorter Meetings

One of the universal complaints that people in business around the globe have is meetings — why they have to take so much time and yet often create so little value.

For a moment, let’s give meetings their due, and talk about the good parts of meetings. 

  • First, meetings are an efficient way to get people updated and coordinated. 
  • Second, meetings are a great way to build connection and trust on a team: we get to see our colleagues in action, brainstorm with them, learn about what’s important to them, perhaps even get to know them personally. 
  • Third, meetings can spur creative thinking: seeing other people wrestle with a common issue, here them thinking out loud, bounce ideas off them. 
  • And finally, sometimes it’s nice to work along side others on a common task.

Those are all compelling reasons to keep having meetings. So now let’s get to some ideas for making the meetings we have more productive and enjoyable. Here are some possibilities:

  • Consider whether you have to have the meeting at all. If you do, then be very judicious about whom you invite; only invite those people who must be at the meeting and have something to add.
  • Change the default meeting time in your organization from 60 or 30 minutes to 20 minutes; you can block together several 20-minute increments if you need more time, but make the default 20 minutes. Consider changing the default meeting length in your calendar app from 60 minutes down to 30 or 20 or 15. (Here’s how to do it in Google Calendar. Here is how to do it in Outlook. And here is how to do it in iCal.)
  • Hold standing meetings (that’s right — don’t use the chairs). This will keep things short.
  • Always have an agenda for meetings (and make sure to stick to it).
  • Begin meetings on time and end them on time, regardless of whether everyone is there (this will train people to be on time).
  • Start meetings with a moment of reflection and centered breathing to allow people to settle into it and focus their minds on the task at hand put devices on do-not-disturb mode; no exceptions.
  • End meetings with a check-in around who is doing what by when so that all action items are assigned to someone with a specific deliverable and deadline. Write this down!