It would be a drastic understatement to say that we’re living in a time of change. In the past eight months, we have seen core improvements to the way we approach long-distance communication. So, what does that mean for the traditional office meeting?
I’d suggest that the way we approach meetings has been irrevocably changed, and I saw that change for myself in a recent meeting I had with an associate.
Recently, I set up a virtual meeting to talk about a deal a colleague and I were putting together. The goal of the meeting was just to address a few little points, so we decided to bypass our respective teams in the interest of simplicity. That was already a departure from corporate normalcy, but I was even more surprised when I received an invitation to a 15-minute meeting.
Don’t misunderstand; by all measures, 15 minutes would be plenty of time to address the topics. But 12 months ago, this meeting would have blocked off an hour, because that’s just the size that meetings came in. We’d have agreed to have our teams on-hand, five or six people each, because they were readily available. And just like how work shifts to fill the space available, our meeting suddenly would have required an hour instead of 15 minutes.
But there’s more to this than just taking shorter meetings. That’s the result, but the cause is the way that we’re learning to adjust to new forms of professional communication. If you’re still working remotely, then you can’t just bump into your coworker down the hall and have a quick chat.
I have no doubt that 15 minutes of our respective time was worth it. But would the full hour we’d normally have invested been worth it? That would mean an extra 10 to 12 people, for a longer period of time, and something tells me in the past we would have gone that way and felt productive.
My suggestion to you is to determine the value of your meetings. And to make sure you’re getting the most out of this new meeting style, I’ve got a few recommendations.
First, remember that you own your calendar. Don’t let other people manage it for you. Challenge every invitation you get, and make sure there’s real value in the meetings you attend. If you’re not in a position to object, but you still don’t think a meeting is worth your time, find a way to gently broach the subject with somebody who can say something. Because if you’ve noticed that a meeting is a value loss, there’s a good chance that somebody else has as well.
Second, start re-evaluating your time in 15-minute chunks. I used to think of hour-long blocks as the base unit of measurement, or maybe the occasional 30-minute meeting if I really wanted to keep things short. But breaking down your time into smaller increments can do wonders for your productivity. In the space of what used to be an hour-long meeting, you can have four discussions that generate even more value, and you don’t have to tear your hair out waiting for a bloated meeting to wrap up.
Third, don’t forget to use new tech solutions, either. Automatic calendar software has been a godsend for me. Rather than the usual back and forth of “What time works for you?” you can just say, “I’ve got time next week, pick a slot on my calendar.” It’s a game-changer, and it lets you control your schedule without having to waste time dealing with logistics.
Fourth, consider ditching more in-person meetings, even if you’re in the same building as people. Some of the time, anyway. Sometimes you need the white board and the energy drinks, but a lot of times you don’t. Instead of having an in-office meeting, could those people just dial in for a 15-minute call? It cuts through the white noise of interactions and lets you use your time much more efficiently.
Once you’ve considered all of these steps, look at how you can offer this extra time back to yourself or other people. Maybe that means more productivity, or maybe that means having some free time. Because believe it or not, burnout is still a major issue, even with virtual meetings. And if you’ve ever dragged your feet to your computer for a Zoom meeting, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So, examine your time, and take steps to make the most of your calendar. And don’t keep this to yourself—share these tips with your colleagues. If everyone can get on the same page about using time more efficiently, you’d be amazed at how much an organization can suddenly get done.
Doug Phares is the former CEO of the Sandusky News Group. He currently serves as managing director of Silverwind Enterprises, which owns and provides management services to small businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.