What’s Wrong With Long Meetings, Anyway?

Categories: Behavior change, BMT Courses, Leadership, MeetingsTags: , , , Author:

In the excellent booklet by Howard Lees titled, “How to Escape From Cloud Cuckoo Land” he suggests that we keep meetings to no longer than one hour.  While most people agree that it is a good idea, they often go on to list some reasons why it cannot be done in their particular organization or team.  Here are four good reasons I think they should do it anyway.

  1. Content in meetings expands to fit the time allotted.  It’s very rare for someone to end a meeting early.  We are naturally prone to fill in the space we have and the more space we have, the more “filler” we include.  People tend to be much more succinct and on task when they have less time to discuss a particular topic.
  2. You and the topic become the meeting.  In behavioral science there is a concept called pairing.  Basically, if you pair something that elicits certain behaviors or feelings with something that is relatively neutral, eventually the neutral thing elicits those same behaviors or feelings.  So, if you hold tedious, boring, and frustrating meetings, eventually people are going to think that you and the topic you are discussing are tedious, boring, and frustrating.  It’s best to end on a high note while people are still feeling energized and reconvene later for more discussion if needed.
  3. Long meetings indicate more planning is required.  Meetings are not a place where the work should get done, they are a place to provide updates and create accountability.  If you are holding meetings to complete work, that suggests better planning, organizing, and delegating is required.  And, most likely a few people are going to think it’s wasting their time, which brings us back to the second point.
  4. You need more time.  For every hour of meetings you remove from your schedule each week, you gain an entire week of work time back across the year.  You’re busy, you don’t accomplish much in long meetings anyway; spend your time on more useful tasks.

Many people in our courses say that meetings take up 40-50% of their day.  By running them more effectively and efficiently, the workday will become dramatically more effective and efficient.  Start by trying to fix one meeting at a time and if it works, you’ll soon have others joining the cause.

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