20 Apr The Power of 29 Minute Meetings: Five Pluses, Zero Minuses

29 for 29 minutes

When you receive a meeting request, is the agenda usually one hour?  When you initiate planning a meeting, do you always block off one hour?  Do you notice a pattern?  I do, and apparently, so do most digital calendars. Whenever I schedule a meeting or appointment on Google calendar, the default setting is one hour.  Evidently, our society has adopted “one hour” as the norm. Can you guess what happens when you schedule that whole hour?  Yup, you manage to fill all 60 minutes with *something* whether it’s truly needed or not.

As I’ve Grown, My Calendar Has Grown

Just like you, my calendar is full. Thankfully, my days are mainly filled with things that I want and choose to do. A couple of months ago, however, I found myself dreading a 90-minute bimonthly manager meeting that I had actually set up.   I scheduled one more 90-minute session to evaluate if my feeling of dread was just a one-time thing or a long-term issue.  This time, instead of focusing on myself and my agenda, I concentrated on observing the participants’ energy, tone and body language.  Quite frankly, it seemed like they were all thinking exactly the same thing that I wanted to say, “Are we really going to be here for 90 minutes?”   After I had that “aha” moment, I told myself that there has to be a better way!

A couple of weeks later, I made one major change. I shortened the meeting from 90 minutes to 29 minutes.  So far, I would rate our new meeting results with five pluses and zero minuses.

Five Pluses Of 29 Minute Meetings

  1. We’re more decisive. We don’t hem and haw on decisions for days, weeks, months or even years. We make confident decisions and then, if necessary, tweak things day-to-day.
  2. We’re more focused. We walk in more prepared and focused on agenda items top of mind. We’re not checking our phones, running to the restroom, filling our water bottles or leaving for other interruptions. We only talk about the necessary “must do’s.” We zero in on the meat and potatoes right away before our minds get a chance to become distracted.
  3. We’re more prompt. We start and end on time. If you’ve been wondering why I say the meetings are 29 minutes and not 30, it’s because we always end early. In the past, by the time I’d set everything up, run the meeting, and do the wrap-up, the amount of time that we all had to block off was about 2 hours. With 29 minute meetings, there is no more 2-hour delay in our days.  Caveat:  You will never please everyone on ideal days or times as we’re all different. Earlier in the day/week could set a positive tone for the rest of your work week, but later in the day/week could be less chaotic.
  4. We’re more flexible. We have more time to keep our doors open for drop-in questions, work on day-to-day operations, think about our priorities and enjoy group workouts together.
  5. We’re more profitable. Believe it or not, it costs a lot of money to hold a meeting.  Just think about how much more money your organization could make and keep if you cut the minutes in half and only invite the necessary people…and even get better overall results.  Caveat: Just because the meeting is shorter doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be canceled if you don’t have anything critical to discuss. 29 minutes are worth saving! [If you want to dig deeper, check out my post from December: Does Your Meeting Cost As Much As A Wedding Banquet?.]


Don’t Ever Cut Out These Three Things

To ensure zero minuses, it’s important to realize that there are three very important items that you simply can’t cut out. First, start your meeting with a few minutes of success stories that tie directly to your mission and core values. Don’t cut out what’s most important to your organization. Second, end your meeting by going around the room to give each participant an opportunity to say something.  Don’t deny your leaders a chance to provide quick department updates or mention something that happened in their personal lives. Third, continue to have in-depth off-site meetings two to four times per year.  It’s impossible to work on the big picture “should do’s” of your business, enjoy a meal together and engage in team-building activities in 29 minutes.

Was The Change Stressful?

Looking back, I thought this change was going to be very stressful, but there was no stress at all. We’re more decisive, focused, prompt, flexible, and profitable. We have freed up more time and improved our meeting results.

Moving forward….

Click to Tweet: It only takes 30 seconds to shrink a “one hour” meeting in a digital calendar to save everyone 30 minutes. @derekdeprey #movetobeteams

ACTION: If you lead a team, shock your team. Schedule a 29 minute meeting. After the meeting, email the participants the following two questions: What did you like? What didn’t you like? Be sure to reflect on the meeting and to really contemplate their responses. Finally, make a decision on whether you want to continue the shorter meetings or go back to former longer ones.  Every team’s needs are unique, but I think exploring the shorter, laser focused meeting is worthwhile. You may be surprised that you don’t necessarily need the default “one-hour.”

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