1-hour meetings don’t exist. A meeting that lasts for 1 hour with 5 people attending costs a minimum of five man hours. In reality, by the time that one-hour meeting has been scheduled, prepared for and everyone’s workflow has been interrupted it costs more like 7 hours.
Something I’ve been working towards recently is scheduling shorter meetings that achieve all the same goals. Why is it that we always schedule a meeting for 1 hour by default? Actually, I wonder if the apps that we use are partly to blame.
Anyway here are some strategies that I use to schedule more efficient meetings and, as a result, cut down on the time that our teams spend having them.
1. Don’t schedule meetings to start on the hour
I’ve started scheduling meetings for funny times like 09:10 rather than 09:00 and never default to scheduling a 1-hour meeting when a shorter one will do. Firstly this makes me think more carefully about how long to schedule it for and secondly I find people are more likely to arrive on time.
Prepare an agenda for the meeting before you send out the meeting invite. Even better, include the agenda with the invite. During this process you’ll sometimes realise that you’re inviting people that don’t need to be there (so don’t invite them) and having an agenda will give you a good feel for how long to schedule the meeting for.
3. Don’t be late
To be early is to be on time. Pull people up when they are late and create a culture where lateness is not accepted by anyone. Whilst it won’t make you popular, your team will thank you when they find themselves more productive during the day, spending less time in meetings and more time with their family.
4. Simplify and Standardise
Consider creating standard meetings every week for your team. Whilst this might sound like a crazy thing to say in light of my comments above I’ve found that well-structured, regular catch up sessions can dramatically reduce the need for additional more unstructured meetings at other times. We’ve recently started implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System and I’ve found the meeting structure and sample agendas to be really useful. Our first EOS “Level 10” meeting was rated as being much more useful than the other more time-consuming meetings that we used to hold each week. You can download a Level 10 meeting agenda template here.
5. Finish on Time
Always finish meetings on time. Not finishing a meeting on time is as rude as being late. If you get into this habit then your team will start to cut the chit chat and tangents in meetings in order to get through the agenda. When a member of the team calls the end of the meeting before the agenda has been finished you know you’re winning on this one.