I participated in a meeting with some partners not too long ago for work. The conversation was in a lull about the topic and people were getting off tangent. I sat there for a few minutes, hoping it would turn back, but after about five minutes, I made eye contact with the “organizer” and gave him a look, mouthing the words “bring it back” to him. When the meeting was scheduled, there was no set ‘time’ delegated, no objectives or points for discussion, but having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. I wanted to tear my hair out several times over the course of a two hour meeting that could have been completed in an hour. I made a decision:
30 minute meetings.
MEETINGS ARE TOO LONG & OFTEN UNDER PRODUCTIVE (for me anyway).
I learned a long time ago that “yes” some meetings need more time and they are given their fair duty but many meetings I encounter, particularly some of those weekly ‘check in’ meetings can be cut to 30 min without issue.
Why do I do it?
There’s a few reasons:
- 30 minutes mean we get down to business and save the small talk if we finish early. I do want to know how you are, how your kids, pets, gerbil, etc… are doing, but I really want to get business done first.
- psychological. I’ve noticed that when I request only 30 minutes, we get done with business in a very efficient manner. 60 minute meetings usually cause a lot of sittingaroundandstaringateachother syndrome that I truly cannot stand.
- the group is usually relatively small for the 30 minute meetings, 5 people or less, sometimes just two of us. There’s no reason we can’t get business done.
- i hate small talk. the introvert in me usually sits/stands there (awkwardly at best) waiting for the thing to start or keep it moving.
Do meetings go over 30 minutes? Yes, absolutely and that’s ok but being up front about only needing 30 minutes helps put everyone at ease, helps people plan and allocate their time, and can serve as a catalyst to do other things.
How do I block my calendar? I block 30 minutes to the meetings that I can and am specific in my language about only needing 30.
I will usually send an agenda or list of bullet point items that I’d like to discuss. It helps steer the conversation and serves as a guide.
I understand and respect the need for “think tank” time but a weekly check in is usually just that, a check in.
If it goes over, that’s usually ok. I’ve learned that I need a break between meetings to recharge and organize my thoughts so I try to plan my calendar that way. I’m not always successful, but I’ve learned that scheduling myself with back to back meetings is like a death sentence.
I will assess who the meeting is with. How many people at the table? Dean of the college (they get all the time they want)? Is this someone who I am meeting for the first time or well established partner that I already have a good rapport with?
I’m still guarding my time like a watchdog with a herd of cattle. I share just enough but also block off time for my own work. I have even started a tumblr page this summer and attached the link to the end of my email that I update once each day, “where am i?” Anyone who wants can access it and I will usually give a general outline of the day:
I’m hoping it becomes a normal habit for me by the time the semester begins again so I just update it from my phone in the morning and I’m off. I created a QR code for my door so anyone who wants can just scan it and stalk.
Managing my meetings has helped me continue to manage my schedule. If someone wants me, they can find me or at least get a general sense of where I am. If they want to meet, they know they start with 30 minutes. Does it always work? No. But it’s sure better than wasting countless hours in meetings that have no end.