How to Get Way More Out of Your Meetings

Time management is one of those critical pieces of good business that is so often misunderstood. It’s easy to see why. Some practices that may seem beneficial can actually be incredibly harmful. In the past, we’ve looked at the pitfalls of multitasking and how much more you can do with singular focus on any given task. This time, it’s all about meetings. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is no time sink that can drain your day in a flash like a good, long meeting. They’re a necessary piece of any good business, but what makes a meeting genuinely useful and, more importantly, expedient?

Peter Bregman wrote recently for HBR about what he calls the “30-minute meeting”, and all the benefits that go into compressing this kind of team communication into half an hour. His philosophy hits on and defeats many of the problems that team meetings often run up against.

Too often meetings will start with an agenda only to get lost on tangent after tangent to the point that you never seem to resolve whatever issue was brought to the table in the first place.

The 30 minute meeting eliminates this as a possibility. This clear constraint demands that you have a well-defined list of what you want to accomplish going into it and the knowledge that you have to hit those goals before time runs out.

Another problem with meetings is that they aren’t always taken seriously. It’s too easy for a meeting to seem like a break, time away from (hopefully) more productive pursuits.

This isn’t possible in the 30 minute format. If people know they don’t have all the time in the world, they will be more alert and focused on the task at hand. People turn ideas into actionable directives, rather than letting an endless string of thoughts float in the air.

None of this works without that agenda. If you’re leading the meeting, or if you’re expected to contribute topics to the discussion, be prepared beforehand. This can’t be emphasized enough. If no one knows what to talk about going in, you’re almost guaranteed to get very little use out of those 30 (or more) minutes.

Now from time to time, there’s nothing wrong with the big, long meeting where people can bring every thought they’ve got packed away to the table. This serves a few useful functions too. It can lead to brainstorming and new strategies. It’s also an incredibly simple team-building exercise that really can help team members find their voice.

You just can’t let that be the norm. Startups don’t have the luxury to waste time with all the competition out there. That means competing, that means driving to do way more than everyone else, and that’s what the 30 minute meeting is all about. You may find that it’s actually making your life easier too.

Even if it takes some getting used to, give the 30 minute meeting a try. Once everyone has got a sense for it, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting a lot more for a lot less time invested.

Do whatever it takes to get your meetings working for you, instead of letting them take away precious time and resources.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment