Being busy seems to be a constant part of life these days. For people working in organisations a big contributor to that is the amount of time they spend in meetings.
Have you ever counted how much of your average working week you spend in meetings? For some executives I work with it can be as much as 75% of their time. Their day is spent rushing from one meeting to another.
Meetings are huge part of corporate culture, and yet many people dread them. Why?
- They rarely start and finish on time – some people arrive late, others leave early
- There’s often no clear purpose or agenda
- The meeting isn’t well chaired and so the conversation wanders and is dominated by people who like to talk
- All of which means you can often leave a meeting not convinced it was a good use of your time
For example, have you ever participated in a conference call that operated like this?
My mum drilled into me from a very early age that if you keep people waiting you are assuming your time is more valuable than their time. However, if you have back to back meetings in your diary, it can be impossible to be punctual. You are simply trying to cram too much into a single day. Now the days aren’t going to get any longer, and so the only option is to get better at how we use our time.
If you could get the meetings around you to run more effectively, chances are you’d save many, many hours each working week.
Changing how meetings operate is not just about the structure of the meetings, it’s cultural. And by that I mean understanding and then changing the norms in your organisation about how meetings are run. To start, think about the accepted patterns of behaviour around running late, leaving early, having no set agenda and involving more people than necessary. Are these practices seen as acceptable, and how do you address?
- Secondly, then look at what you can do to buy yourself back some time. Here’s some ideas:
Change the standard meeting length to be 45 minutes (or even better 30 minutes), so you have time to move between meeting locations. You can do this by changing the settings on your calendar so it is preset to this when you send meeting invitations
- Change how you meet with people. Be deliberate on which meetings can be done over the phone, or need to be done face to face. Challenge yourself about coffee catch ups. Whilst they are great in terms of rapport building, they can also consume a lot of time.
- Have stand up meetings. The research shows that meetings take 25% longer when people sit down. These are a very effective way of having short, to the point meetings
- Set aside one day a week to have no meetings
- If you are setting the meeting, be explicit about its purpose and why you want people to attend
- If you have been invited and there is no agenda question if you really need to be there. Quit the FOMO and welcome the time back in your day.
If you need any more encouragement to change your approach to meetings then take a look at Ted Grady’s TED Talk
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.