Death by meetings…or not!

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 - company culture, calendars, time, nature of work, projects, etc

Move from calendar chaos to powerful and productive 25-minute meetings with productivity expert Donna McGeorge

Time-poor, stressed out, overwhelmed and on the verge of ‘death by meetings’… Sound familiar?

As a high-level EA, it is likely your calendar could be peppered with irrelevant or tedious back-to-back catchups whilst your mailbox is overloaded with messages screaming for attention. Every time you get a chance to breathe and catch up on some ‘real work’, your computer pings to remind you of yet another pointless meeting starting in five minutes.

But don’t get me wrong – 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. What we don’t need, though, are meetings that waste time, money and resources.

The solution? A 25-minute meeting. Short, sharp and productive. Gets the job done – and gets more value in less time.

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 (company culture, calendars, time, nature of work, projects, etc.) and 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 things that don’t serve us. We stop thinking about things outside of our control and focus on things we do have control over – like making meetings just 25-minutes!

Structure your 25-minute meeting with the 9Ps

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: Less is best! Think about who you need and try and keep it to around five people. Your meetings will be punchy and get the job done.

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.

Presence: No laptops or phones – it’s 25 minutes of focused discussion. Can’t make it? Send a proxy but they must be punctual, prepared and present.

Speak up

Participate: 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. This will help ensure they feel comfortable quickly, bring their genius to the table, share their insights, engage and ask quality questions.

Produce: Use the meeting to enhance work, not prevent anyone from doing ‘real work’.  Make sure you achieve the purpose by staying on track and being focused on that.

Proceed: At the end of the meeting, publicly share who is doing what by when. Follow through on post-meeting commitments and actions to hold people accountable.

Get started now!

If you wait for ‘the organisation’ to fix meetings or get on board with 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 for which you have control – those you organise or chair, one-on-ones with your direct reports and your team meetings.

Donna is a global authority on productivity and a best-selling author. Her series It’s About Time covers meetings, structuring your day and doing more with less