2. Consider open afternoons.
One of the biggest problems with meetings is how they break up your time. This creates short time blocks that make it hard to settle into work – especially deep, thoughtful work.
One way to diminish this effect is to have a company policy of “open afternoons” (or open mornings, if you prefer). It means all meetings get scheduled in one half of the day – say mornings. That way, everybody gets a big open time block in the afternoons.
3. Skip the status report part of the meeting.
You know that part of the meeting when you go around the room and everybody explains what they’re working on and how it’s going? Cut that.
Move all the status information about everyone’s work to an information hub. That hub could be any one of the collaboration tools available (like Asana or Slack). It could be a status sheet on Google Drive. It could even be a bulletin board or a whiteboard. Positioning the white board near the water cooler or the coffee station often helps get more people to look at it.
Use that hub to let people know what you’re working on and how it’s going. Use it to find out what your peers are working on. And enforce its use: Anybody who doesn’t keep their hub updated gets demerits – like cleaning out the refrigerator.
If you just have to keep the “here’s what I’m doing this week” part of the meeting, time people. Everybody gets 2 minutes to explain what they’re working on. Any ensuing conversations can be had offline.
Can sheer discomfort make us more productive? Seems so. Neal Taparia cut meeting times down by 25% at his company simply by making everyone stand. And Melissa Dahl reports that University of Missouri researchers trimmed 34% of meeting time by getting people to stand.
If sitting is indeed the new smoking, this is good for productivity and for our health. Wanna take it even further? Add a medicine ball. Taparia makes anyone who speaks at company “standups” (their word for meetings) hold a medicine ball while they talk.
5. Have “offline” conversations.
Don’t make your coworkers sit around while you and one or two other people hash something out. Have micro-meetings as necessary so you don’t slow down larger powwows.
There is a sister idea to this: Have more one-on-one talks with people. Don’t call them meetings. Just call them conversations. Sometimes the informality of a conversation just naturally makes things move faster.
6. Kick people out who don’t have to be there.
Sure, this will seem mean at first. One of the less aspirational stories about Steve Jobs was how he would unceremoniously kick people out of meetings. If you didn’t have to be in the meeting, you weren’t just given a pass. You were kicked out.
There are probably more sensitive ways to go about this, but the principle is sound. Don’t make someone sit in a meeting they don’t need to be in. Free them. Let them go do their work.
7. Use a timer.
There are cases where relaxed, open-ended meetings are appropriate. But they’re the exception, not the rule. So try to trim the regular, day-to-day meetings down. A timer can help. So can a commitment to 30-minute meetings. The condensed time makes everyone more efficient.