K.I.S.S.: Keep it Short, Stupid. 5 Thoughts on Meeting Times

Have you noticed that a significant majority of the meetings you are invited to, or perhaps that you initiate, are an hour long and start and end at half-hour boundaries during the day? If you have days like mine, where you can get invited to several back-to-back meetings throughout the day, it is nearly impossible to make it to all of them on time. This results in delayed starts, interruptions as people join the meeting late, and you have the potential to waste a lot of time for a lot of people if you are not careful.

Here are five ideas to help combat the conflict that the hour long meeting can create:

  1. Shorter by default – In your calendaring software, change the default meeting time from an hour to something shorter. If you shorten the default time, you will have to intentionally make the invitation for a longer meeting. I have my default meeting time in Outlook set to be 30 minutes. I think you will find that needing the extra effort to extend the meeting will keep you from setting up so many hour-long meetings that are not necessary.
  2. Less is more – Truly consider your meeting agenda (you have one, right?) and how much time you will need to cover the outlined topics. Be conservative on the time allotted. You can always schedule a short follow up meeting to cover additional territory if you don’t cover everything you need to in the first meeting. Consider setting up 25, 35, or 45 minute meetings.
  3. It takes time to travel – Schedule your meetings to end at five to seven minutes before the hour or half-hour boundaries. Until that teleportation thing gets worked out, people still need time to get from point A to point B. Even if teleportation is invented some day, there is a good chance that people will still need to use the facilities. Do your attendees a favor and end a few minutes early.
  4. Plan to start a few minutes late – It’s rather inconsiderate to make those that are on time for a meeting wait for others who are late. We all have better things to do than to wait for other people to show up. Assuming that not everybody you work with will adopt item #3, why not plan to start at five minutes after the hour? Plan that your meetings start at 9:35 instead of 9:30, and start on time.
  5. Stand up – One of the things I love about Scrum is the daily standup meeting. It is a 15 minute meeting and yes, people stand up for it. Consider having other meetings that are “stand up” meetings. Just having people stand can keep them from getting too comfortable and wanting to wander off topic.

Let’s face it, an hour is a pretty arbitrary increment of time. Experiment with using a shorter duration, changing the start time, and ending a few minutes early. Let me know if you have any other suggestions related to scheduling meeting times.

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