If you approach meetings with the end in mind, you can do almost any meeting in 15 minutes.
I changed the default meeting length in Google calendar to 15 minutes (here’s now). This has given me much more time back in my life.
In other words, most meeting’s don’t need to be 1 hour long, or even 30 minutes long.
Meetings are subject to Parkinson’s Law, which states:
Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
This means if you have a 60 minute meeting, the meeting will most likely go the entire 60 minutes, if not longer. Same goes for 30 minute meetings, 45 minute meetings, etc.
We’ve all been there. 60 minutes is reserved for a meeting. Everyone present knows this wont take an hour to figure out, but we sit there in a little corporate gaggle for 60 minutes playing the meeting game.
Kill me now.
Everyone is thinking it, so why are we all still there? Why are we wasting 30-60 minutes if we don’t actually need to be there that long?
What a waste of time, life and energy.
90% of the time 30-60 minute meetings are not needed.
In my personal experience 90%+ of meetings can be handled in 15 minutes or less.
When companies adopt this with ruthlessness abandon, more things get done in a shorter amount of time. Productivity and efficiency increases (and so does employee happiness – not one single person I know enjoys tons of long meetings).
How to make sure your meetings are short and effective
I’m sure you’re thinking …
“This sounds great and all, but I’m not even sure if this is possible at my company.”
Here are a few things you can do to ensure that meetings are concise and productive:
1. Have Predefined Goals for the Meeting
You need to go into the meeting with a goal in mind, and agree that when the goal is met, the meeting is over and people can leave.
As a friend of mine put it here:
I would argue that more than structure, they need a pre-defined expected deliverable.
I would state up front – “We need to answer this/these questions and/or assign it to the best person. When we do that, we are done. Let’s start …”
15 min might be too long sometimes.Troy Busot on Twitter
You have to be ruthless about it. Once its determined and consensus is met, exit the meeting.
2. Each Meeting Needs Leader/Conductor
The leader’s duty is to keep the meeting on track and to call the meeting over when the goal is met. At this time people can leave. This leader needs to interrupt people that talk to long or overpower the meeting or side track it. The leader is the conductor here. Think of this like a conductor of a symphony – they keep everything on track and orchestrate the symphony.
This person also holds the responsibility and authority to interject and interrupt meeting disruptors (people who derail the meeting and talk for very long periods of time).
This has to be agreed upon at the team level that this is how the meeting is run. Otherwise you’ll have a team member overpower the meeting and run it off course.
The typical response to this is:
“What if the director/VP/CEO, etc is in the meeting?”
The meeting length and goal should be reinforced at the start of the meeting and then 3..2..1.. GO. This will sometimes be uncomfortable. I understand that this is not possible for every individual, but if its adopted culturally in the organization the senior ranking officials of the company will see the value in its efficiency.
This is not perfect, but it will keep the vast majority of meetings within 15 minutes.
3. Group all meetings into a single block of time
15 minute meetings are fantastic, but they’re absolutely horrendous for creative people when they’re dispersed throughout the day.
Group all the meetings into the first 2-3 hours of the day or the last 2-3 hours of the day.
The rest of the day should be left open for creative types to focus and get their work done.
This is very much inspired by the Makers v. Managers Schedule. I’ve experimented with this in my teams and it works great. If you have meetings riddled throughout the day, you’ll soon wonder why your team is not getting anything done.
It’s because they don’t have time to focus.
If you can get this adopted across the organization, you’ll find that all meeting times will trend toward the same block of time.
The only challenge to this is a timezone distributed workforce where team members are in different timezones. The first 3 hours of the day on the west coast of the US, might be the middle of the day for the east coast team. If possible, get team members within 2-3 hours of each other.
What if you need to have a meeting outside of the 2-3hour meeting window?
Schedule it for tomorrow, or ping the person you need to meet with and see when they have 15 minutes available. If it has to happen today, only make it 15 minutes long. Try to keep it within the same meeting window block as before.
Why 15 Minute Meetings Work
The reason is simple. It goes back to Parkinson’s Law.
If you know you have 15 minutes to do something, you’ll “trim the fat” so that only necessary tasks are on the deck.
We’ve all had an experience where we have very short period of time to get something done and we somehow got it done in that time. What an amazing feeling.
It’s the same thing here.
By approaching your meetings with deliberate intent, sharp focus, and a clearly defined desired outcome within a concise time frame, you can expedite decision-making, minimize wasted time, and significantly enhance your overall productivity.
So get to it – go change your default meeting length in Google Calendar to 15 Minutes.
Here’s how to do it. It takes less than 30 seconds: