February 23, 2015
I’d like to make a modest proposal. We should stop scheduling meetings with zero time to go from one meeting to the next.
Does this describe your life? You have a meeting scheduled from 9:00am to 10:00am. And then another meeting from 10:00am to 10:30am. You have left yourself exactly zero minutes to get from the first meeting to the second.
What often happens in meeting with many people a few folks pack their stuff and leave early. If you are an early meeting leaver you know the tension that this action causes. What is the exact right time to duck out? Should you let the other meeting participants know that you need to leave “early” to make another meeting? What to do if someone is talking at the time you planned to pack up your stuff and go?
Or maybe you stay for the entire time at the meeting, only to be 5 or 10 minutes late for the next meeting. There is nothing more disruptive than late meeting arriving.
I have a theory that calendar / meeting software, such as Outlook Calendar, has made this problem worse. The software defaults to a 30 minute meeting. The drop down menu for meeting times (at least in Outlook for Mac 15.3) is: 0 Minutes, 5 Minutes, 10 Minutes, 15 Minutes, 30 Minutes, 45 Minutes, 1 Hour, 1.5 Hours, 2 Hours (going up by the hour). The defaults should 25 minutes and 55 minutes (or 50 minutes). Enough time to go from one meeting to the next.
Of course, we could solve this problem ourselves. Every meeting we make we could schedule with enough time for any attendee to make it to a subsequent meeting. Never schedule an hour meeting again. Instead, schedule 50 minutes. Start on time, and be diligent about ending at 50 minutes past the hour.
Maybe you are already doing this. Perhaps you practice good meeting hygiene, always sending out an agenda ahead of time. You always send after-meeting action items to all participants. Your information meetings are 25 minutes long, your decision meetings 50 minutes. You don’t hold meetings during the hours when people need to drop-off or pickup kids at daycare or school. You refuse to keep regularly scheduled meetings on your calendar if the information exchange could be accomplished by e-mail. You don’t check your e-mail during meetings, as you are fully present with everyone in the room. You listen more than you talk. You try to make sure that seating arrangements and time speaking are not driven by status and hierarchy, but rather by the quality of ideas. You are good at picking up nonverbal cues, and you create a safe and inviting meeting environment for everyone to share ideas.
What are your meeting guidelines and best practices?
What are your meeting frustrations?
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