How many meetings do you have per week at work? How many of those meetings are too long? Could 30 be the new 60?
Many are surprised to find out that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings every week. Time is the resource in every organization that is most valuable but goes the most unchecked and we’re all guilty of wasting it.
The average employee attends 62 meetings per month. 73% of employees do other work while attending meetings with 22% of employees at one organization admitting to sending 3 or more emails, on average, for every 30 minutes of meeting time. More than 65% of leadership meetings aren’t called for the purpose of decision making, but instead, merely for information sharing or group discussion. Each organization is different and while I can’t define if a meeting is required or not for your organization, my aim is to challenge you to shorten your meetings.
The sign of a great meeting isn’t the meeting itself, it’s the outcome of the meeting. When you and your team meet for a shorter period of time, your goal is to get to the outcome sooner and not waste time. Agendas with purpose drive decisions to be made. Taking just 5 minutes when sending out a meeting invite to create a few bullet points of topics to be covered in the meeting and noting the objective, you’ll make valuable use of only as much time is needed. In doing this, you’ll find that the time spent in the meeting is meaningful for all involved when everyone comes with a purpose. You can then make meetings shorter by not focusing on the fluff.
You’ll find other added benefits with shorter meetings too:
- When people know a meeting is shorter, they tend to arrive on time.
- Cutting your meetings in half, you’ll have far more opportunities to enjoy meaningful time with co-workers.
- You’ll have more time to focus on your actual job. Mostly due to meetings and email, employees only spend 45% of their time on actual job duties. Think of all the time you’ll have back with shorter meetings.
While you can be mindful of others time by scheduling shorter meetings, it is key to rally others to do the same. Co-workers, like you, often have more work than can be done in a single day. Challenging the belief that meetings need to be longer in a positive way can shed light on something that many in your office may not even be thinking about. Time can be given back to everyone with shorter meetings and everyone has a part to play in making that happen
If an invite comes through for 60 minutes and it appears that the meeting can be shorter, reach out to the organizer personally. Ask that person for their thoughts on shortening that meeting. You’ll be surprised by how eager people are to agree that the meeting can be shorter. But what about leaders that schedule long meetings?
”I can’t tell my boss to provide an agenda for a meeting that also appears to be 30 minutes longer than is needed!”
Your boss is a support system with goals based around you doing great work. When done constructively, there is no harm in making it clear that your aim is to ensure you and others make good use of the time you have each day for the work you care about. Leader’s who care about you and your responsibilities will appreciate you showing initiative when it comes to being more productive. A leader who doesn’t care about that is…well, that’s a different conversation.
Many believe that longer meetings are necessary to create better bonds and working relationships with teams. Others believe longer meetings improve morale as there’s breathing room for various conversations.
That belief is false. Meetings aren’t key to creating strong social bonds between co-workers, that’s merely a byproduct of being in the same room together. It is far more worthwhile to invest in truly social situations for you and those that you want to get to know better at work.
Take time to go for a coffee with a teammate at work. Invite someone to go for lunch. Get a group together for an after work drink. These activities will bring much stronger connections and the focus can be on getting to know one another. If those types of interactions aren’t possible, make time for a 1:1 call with no agenda here and there. Don’t make getting to know someone a byproduct of being together at the same time for something unrelated.
We know that time is wasted by all organizations with meetings being the main culprit. Now, what can we do about it?
For the next 4 weeks, I challenge you to do the following:
- Question if any of your recurring meetings allotted time could be cut in half.
- Before sending out a meeting invite, think about the possibility of cutting the time allotted in half. Can 60 become 30? Can 30 become 15? Can 15 be a quick IM or email?
- Create a short, bullet-point agenda with an objective stated for the meeting. If you can’t do that, do you need the meeting at all?
Our scarcest resource is time. Value your time and the time of those that you work with. You’re going to be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.