meetings can be toxic

Simple tricks for productive meetings

Have you ever thought of how much time you spend in meetings? It’s unfortunate that meetings are scheduled like TV shows. You set aside thirty minutes or an hour because that’s how scheduling works (you will never see anyone schedule a seven-min meeting with you). Too bad. Even though you get done in 15 mins, many people still stretch to 1 hour which leads to waste of time for all.

When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is astonishing. Let’s say you are going to schedule a meeting for 1 hour and you invite 10 people to attend, i.e. actually 10 X 1 = 10 hours meeting all together. That means, you are trading 10 hours of productivity for  1 hour of meeting time. On top of that, there is always a changeover or switching add-ons like stopping what you are doing, walking to the meeting room, going somewhere else to meet, non-value added talking with people in the corridors, and then resuming what you were doing beforehand. If you add all these hours then it’s probably more like 15 hours meeting for 10 people.

Now, what do you think now? Is it okay to trade 10 or 15 hours of overall productivity for 1 hour meeting? Sometime, maybe. But that’s a pretty hefty price to pay.

Let me share some simple tricks to be productive in meetings. Next time when you schedule a meeting, think it purely from cost basis point of view.

  • Create a simple and clear agenda. What is the purpose of the meeting? Why are we meeting? How much time should we spend? Treat your meetings as working sessions instead of just discussions.
  • Invite as few people as possible. Avoid inviting more than two people from the same team. They can always take action or pending items back to their team and get back to you next time.
  • Include switching time in your meeting. Instead of scheduling for 30 mins or 60 mins, schedule your meeting for 25 mins or 55 mins. If you get done earlier then give the remaining time back to the people instead of chatting or trying to solve the next puzzle.
  • Set a timer. When it rings, meeting is over. Period.
  • Always keep last 5 mins of your meeting for debrief, assigning action items to participants and setting up agenda for the next meeting, if needed. Don’t invite people with no action items assigned in your next meeting.

Share these simple tricks with others and you will see the difference.  And yea, don’t forget to track your meeting. Make the team admin/leader responsible for tracking you meeting in TmTask by using #meeting, ‘@’ tag for adding participants and ‘+’ for adding a project. You can add multiple participants and projects to your activity. Also, run reports to analyze your overall meeting hours weekly or monthly by selecting tag #meeting to see total number of hours spend by all people. You should see the difference in your meeting trend.