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Meetings Should Be As Short As Possible. . .But No Shorter

May 4, 2020

It’s not my quote. It was someone smarter than me. Smarter than you, too.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
– Albert Einstein

And Einstein probably wasn’t talking about meetings. But, he might have been.

How many reoccuring meetings do you have on your calendar? How long is each one? I’m going to out on a limb and guess that most of your meetings are an hour long. And the rest are either two hours or half an hour.

It’s a strange phenomenon. I think it’s a function of your calendar. Calendar or meeting appointments default to an hour. You can easily lengthen or shorten your meeting. In neat 15 minute increments.

Most meetings I get scheduled for by others are 60 minutes long. What is it about an hour that is a more natural fit for discussion than a different time?

Meetings aren’t bad per se. I know some business philosophies suggest having no meetings. Or at least no reoccuring meetings. The idea is that you talk to people when you have a need and otherwise you don’t.

In some ways it’s a very tempting idea. Too often meetings are like that expanding foam. The amount of discussion you have will expand to fill the amount of time you have. And I’ve been in plenty of meetings where I couldn’t figure out why we were there.

Having an agenda is a big help for not losing track of meetings. If you have an agenda, it makes it easy to understand when the meeting is over. Unfortunately, people sometimes like to talk. Even with an agenda there is no guarantee you’ll ever move past the first agenda item.

When I schedule meetings, I try to do both. I have an agenda, and I rarely schedule a meeting for longer than 30 minutes. It has an interesting effect.

I’ve found that my coworkers, especially those that are important to success of the project, but not compelled to attend, are more willing to commit to a 30 minute meeting.

But even a 30 minute meeting is sometimes too long. There is nothing more magical about a half an hour meeting than an hour meeting. It’s odd that we decide the day needs to be divided up into half hour blocks.

Don’t be afraid to break out of factor-of-30 meeting times, especially if it helps you keep your meetings as short as possible.

Albert Einstein would approve.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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