It’s midweek and I cannot tell you how many calls I’ve had this week where the person begins by apologizing for having been a few minutes late because the last meeting ran over. Inevitably, one of the reasons it ran over was because the meeting started late as attendees dripped in (having just ended their previous meeting). While reflecting on this trend, I had an epiphany. Why do we book meetings for 30 minutes or an hour? I think this is a hold-over from when electronic calendaring systems first came out. It is also a function of the way our brains work. It’s easier for us to think of our time in 30-minute or 1-hour segments. The problem is, with so many meetings clogging our calendar, we’ve got no time to breathe, think, prepare, or reflect. Therefore, we’re not giving our best in any given meeting — and that tends to get worse as the day (and the week) drag on. So, what can be done about it?
There are many approaches to effective meeting management. The one I want to focus on here is the very small but seismic shift of owning your schedule. Begin socializing the idea that, wherever possible, you restrict your meetings to 25 minutes (rather than 30) and 50 minutes (rather than an hour).
To be clear, this does not mean trying to cram more meetings into your schedule. “Great, now I can book a meeting every 25 minutes throughout my day!” Rather, the idea is that you take back those 5 or 10 minutes for yourself.
This seemingly insignificant change will permit you a few precious moments between meetings to capture any thoughts or tasks you have coming out of the meeting, to take a moment to gather yourself and reset for the next meeting. If nothing else, it will allow you to begin to break free from the avalanche of feeling perpetually late and stressed as you zip from meeting to meeting.
I guarantee you that your ability to focus and contribute to the topic at hand will increase simply by having the time to wrap up your thoughts from one meeting before turning your attention to the next.