Overwhelmed by too many meetings? Here’s how you can improve your productivity

bullying 25-minute meetings

Many of us are time-poor, stressed out, overwhelmed and on the verge of ‘death by meetings’. Our calendars are full of irrelevant, or tedious back-to-back ‘catch-ups’ and our email is overloaded with messages screaming for attention. Every time we get a chance to breathe and catch up on some ‘real work’, our computers ding! to remind us of another pointless meeting that is starting in five minutes.

We need meetings. We need them at work because when they work, they are valuable. Clear actions get set, decisions are made and the whole business moves forward.

But what we don’t need is for meetings to waste our time, money and resources.

What we need is a 25-minute meeting. A meeting that is short, sharp and productive. A meeting that gets the job done efficiently. A meeting that gets more value in way less time.

Stop for a minute and look at your calendar. How many of your meetings are 60 minutes or more? By choosing to do 25-minute meetings, you will free up a large chunk of time to get your day-to-day work done. Or even just have space to think!

Autopilot to action hero

When it comes to meetings, many of us are on autopilot. We look for excuses and reasons to blame external forces for the lack of engagement in our meetings: company culture, calendars, time, nature of work, projects — the list goes on. We say to ourselves, ‘If only the organisation would …’ or, ‘It’s management’s fault because …’

When we become an action hero, we give ourselves permission to take charge of the situation and change those things that don’t serve us. We stop thinking about things that are outside of our control and focus on things that we do have control over.

When you’re an action hero (25-minute meeting), your meetings:

  • Have a laser-like focus;
  • Engage participants;
  • Keep participants present and on task increase productivity;
  • Leave people with a sense of accomplishment and purpose; and
  • Save time.

When you use 25-minute meetings, you go from autopilot to action hero overnight.

The nine Ps of impactful meetings 

Set up

  • Purpose. Why we are here? For every meeting you schedule (or are invited to) you should be able to finish this sentence.  “At the end of this meeting it would be great if . . .”;
  • People. Who do we need?  Less is best!  Try and keep it to around 5 people and your meetings will be punchy and get the job done; and
  • Process. How will we achieve our purpose?  

Show up

  • Preparedness. Everyone has to have done the pre-work and be ready for the discussion;
  • Punctuality. Irrespective of who is in the room, the meeting will start and end on time. There is no repetition or make-up for latecomers; and
  • Presence. No laptops or phones in the meeting; it’s 25 minutes of focused discussion. If you can’t make it, you may send a proxy but they must be punctual, prepared and present.

Speak up

  • Participate. Feel comfortable quickly, to bring their genius to the table, share their insights, ask quality questions and engage in the meeting. Start with a one-minute check in asking how people are.  Maybe a score out of 10. Give them a minute to be “in” the meeting;
  • Produce. Use the meeting to enhance the work, not prevent anyone from doing ‘real work’.  Make sure you achieve the purpose by staying on track and being focused on that; and
  • Proceed. Follow through on commitments and actions after the meeting to hold people accountable.  At the end of the meeting, publicly share who is doing what by when.

 

If you wait for ‘the organisation’ to fix meetings or get on board with this idea of 25-minute meetings and mandate their introduction, you might be waiting for a really long time!

The 25-minute meeting method can be introduced, by you, right now, for those meetings in which you have control: meetings that you organise or chair, one-on-one meetings with your direct reports, and your team meetings.

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