Let’s face it – if you work in an office, you probably spend a lot of time in meetings. Team meetings, stakeholder meetings, even meetings to plan meetings – there’s no escaping them.
A lot of people see them as an energy-sapping waste of time. If you’ve ever sat through a three-hour talkfest that didn’t resolve anything, you’d understand why, particularly if work is piling up on your desk.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By introducing more focus and structure, meetings can work better. Best of all, there’s evidence suggesting that most meetings are way too long.
A short meeting is a good meeting.
You might have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, a time management tool that involves giving complete attention to a task for 25 minutes. After that, you take a short break.
It’s been hailed as revolutionary by people who lack focus or struggle with procrastination and spawned a whole new industry of apps and time management planners. There’s also a lot of research out there confirming that taking regular breaks increases, rather than decreases productivity.
Now, Francesco Cirillo, who developed Pomodoro has weighed into the meeting debate. He argues many meetings aren’t successful, and don’t deliver meaningful outcomes.
Here’s the guts of his argument
An agenda isn’t a list of things to be debated for hours. Instead, Cirillo suggests it should outline the decisions that need to be made and be supported by enough information to help participants develop an informed opinion.
The agenda should be brief enough to be absorbed in, you guessed it, 25 minutes. It should be distributed well in advance – not five minutes before the meeting.
Stick to the script
When the meeting comes around, stick to the agenda and don’t get side-tracked. Now is the time to share informed opinions and make decisions, not to engage in endless debate.
Most meetings should be wrapped up in 25 minutes. At worst, Cirillo suggests two 25-minute sessions, with a short break between them.
Okay, not everybody’s going to get away with keeping meetings as short as 25 minutes.
But the principle is sound: Every meeting should have an agenda. People should come prepared (and have been given enough time to do their preparation). There should be a focus on making decisions and achieving outcomes.
If you’re spending all day bogged down in meetings that never seem to resolve everything, why not give it a try? Chances are your workmates will thank you for it.