Meetings are a huge time suck. Here’s how to have a lot less of them.
Meetings are the bane of existence for most people. They take up a lot of time, aren’t productive and in most cases, no decisions get made. So how can you get to the outcome you want while reducing the time you spend in meetings?
I’m a bit of a productivity nut and so I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 10 years learning and testing all different kinds of approaches to reduce meetings. Some worked, some didn’t.
Here are the 5 things that have not only worked, but I’d estimate I now spend 80% less time in pointless meetings.
Have Stand Up Meetings
Stand up meetings work for scrums in an engineering context, so why not adopt them across all other departments? Stand up meetings normally take 5–10 minutes and of course, everyone is standing.
The idea is that each person gives a status update on what they’re working on and what’s slowing them down. Anyone can offer to help with issues and that normally happens at the end of the stand up.
Create An Agenda + Outcomes Before Each Meeting
The best way to zoom through meetings is to have a clear list of agenda items and outcomes, i.e. decisions you want to make during the meeting. When you’ve achieved all of your outcomes, end the meeting right away. There’s no point spending an hour in a meeting when you can get it all wrapped up in 20 minutes.
The key is to create the agenda before the meeting and share it with all participants. Also critical is that you limit the meeting only to people who have input around the decisions that need to be made. Meetings aren’t a spectator sport so keep the participants to an absolute minimum.
Have Walking Meetings
Instead of sitting in a stuffy meeting room, take your meetings on the go. This works best for 1:1s. You can walk around the block, walk through a local park or along the water if there’s some near your office. You end up killing two birds with one stone — you have your meeting but you also get some exercise which will help you feel more alert for the rest of the day.
Scheduled Meetings As 15/25/45 Minutes
There’s no rule that says all meetings have to last for an hour. Try shortening the duration of your meetings. Start with 45 minutes then aim to get down to 15 or 25 minutes over a few weeks. If you use the agenda + outcomes and everyone’s seen them before hand, it makes the meetings much shorter and you can use the rest of the time to do real work.
The more people that attend a meeting, the less productive it generally is. Unless someone has a specific purpose in the meeting, they shouldn’t be attending. If there are people who need an update on the meeting, send around a one-pager which contains bullet points about key outcomes or decisions made during the meeting.
So that’s it. Five pretty simple things you can try out to reduce the time you spend sitting around in pointless meetings.
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