C-Suite Agenda

How to do more in a meeting with less time

I was recently in a meeting as the change management expert for a global organization. I was there to gather information, as their meetings were notorious for being late and inefficient. But this meeting was different: a manager came into the room and announced before we started, ‘I have a hard stop at 10.30 am’.

Immediately, there was an increase in energy, attention, and focus. People were ready and able to get down to business! I noticed the effect of this technique, and started using it myself and had the same results. Often, we are more productive and produce higher quality work when we have less time – especially when it comes to meetings.

A 2002 study published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science showed that people who imposed strict deadlines on themselves for tasks performed far better (and more consistently) than those who didn’t. More interestingly, they found that those who allotted too much (or ample) time to complete tasks often created more work for themselves.

The problem is that we automatically default to holding 60-minute meetings. The result? At least 35 minutes of wasted time waiting for latecomers, wondering about the agenda (or lack thereof), watching mobile phones or trying to fix tech issues.

Just think of the time you could recover if you got rid of those bad meeting habits, right there.

Less is more

Scarcity is one of the world’s most powerful persuaders and an immediate instigator of urgent behavior. That’s why it’s so effective when it comes to marketing products and services.

For most of us time is a highly valuable resource and we already view it with a sense of scarcity. So imagine what would happen if we were to swap to a 25-minute meeting?

Firstly, we use the highly valued time more wisely, and secondly, we would give people back a highly regarded and valuable resource.

Having only 25 minutes creates clarity around doing what’s important. If we only have 25 minutes, we had better be focused on what we need to get done. This automatically forces us to think about the top two or three things to discuss in a meeting

Having a sense of urgency drives immediate action. We need to do it and we need to do it now. It’s probably why it’s the most overused word in most workplaces, and why some of us are urgency junkies. Unless it’s urgent it won’t get done; if it’s urgent you will do it immediately.

I know this to be true based on how long it takes me to clean my house. If I know I’m expecting visitors in 20 minutes (urgency), I am incredibly efficient on what I need to do to achieve a presentable home (clarity). No time for distraction or dawdling (scarcity). This is a stark difference from when I’m doing it in my own time, dawdling from room to room, tidying here, cleaning there, getting distracted.

Just try it for yourself and see!

3 simple steps to get started with a 25-minute meeting

  1. Change your calendar app to default to 25 minutes, instead of 60
  1. Tell people you only have 25 minutes to spare the next time you meet
  1. Make the decision to do it and stick to it!

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Donna McGeorge
Donna McGeorge is a speaker, author and mentor who helps people work smarter. Using a creative, practical approach, she improves workplace effectiveness while challenging thinking on leadership, productivity and virtual work. She is the author of 3 books, ‘The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact’ and ‘The First 2 Hours: Making Better Use of Your Most Valuable Time’, and more recently, The 1 Day Refund: Take Back Time, Spend It Wisely published by John Wiley.

Donna McGeorge is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.