We’re all familiar with being stuck in a long, drawn-out meeting that seems to go nowhere, leaving us feeling like we could have been much more productive elsewhere. But what if we told you that it’s possible to have a super-productive 25-minute meeting?
The problem with longer meetings is that they tend to be riddled with unnecessary chit-chat, tech issues and distractions that waste time and reduce productivity. Parkinson’s Law tells us that: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In other words, if we give ourselves an hour to complete a task, we’ll take an hour to do it, even if it could be done in half the time.
“If we give ourselves an hour to complete a task, we’ll take an hour to do it, even if it could be done in half the time.”
The 25-minute meeting, on the other hand, is short, sharp and to the point. By using this approach, we can eliminate the time-wasting elements of meetings and get more value in way less time. And it’s not just a hunch – there’s scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of shorter, more focused bursts of work.
As far back as 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor, one of the first management consultants, discovered that people who gave a focused amount of effort for 25 minutes, and then spent the next 35 minutes resting, increased productivity by 600 percent. Francesco Cirillo’s book, The Pomodoro Technique, which centers around short bursts of work for 25 minutes at a time followed by a short five-minute break, is another example of the benefits of shorter work sessions.
The 25-minute meeting: Scarcity and clarity equals urgency
The beauty of 25-minute meetings is that they allow us to focus our effort in shorter, controlled periods of time which, in turn, leads to higher productivity and better results. We’ve all experienced the benefits of scarcity – when time is short, and we’re clear on the outcome, it creates a sense of urgency that motivates us to be more productive and produce higher-quality work.
“People who gave a focused amount of effort for 25 minutes, and then spent the next 35 minutes resting, increased productivity by 600 percent.”
So, how can you make the switch to 25-minute meetings? Start by changing your default settings. Many of us run meetings according to our default calendar app, which is typically set to 60 minutes. By defaulting to 25 minutes, you’ll force yourself and your team to be more focused and efficient.
Then, it’s down to three simple things:
1. Set up
Once you’ve made the decision to switch, you need to set yourself – and others – up for success. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting, the people you need to achieve that purpose and the process you will use to conduct the meeting.
2. Show up
Start with being on time. When people are punctual, it not only means we use our time more productively, but it also demonstrates respect for the others in attendance. Give people time to be prepared by sending an agenda with ample time for review. Be fully present. It’s 25 minutes of focused discussion without the need for laptops and phones.
3. Speak up
People need to feel comfortable quickly, so they can bring their genius to the table and participate fully in the meeting. Ensure attendees do the work in the meeting and produce a plan to proceed afterwards. Use the meeting to enhance the work, not prevent anyone from doing ‘real work’. There’s nothing worse than having to have another meeting because the previous meeting didn’t do its job.
The benefits of 25-minute meetings are clear. By trimming the fat and focusing our effort in shorter, more productive bursts, we can eliminate wasted time and get more value in less time.
Donna McGeorge is a best-selling author and global authority on productivity. Her book series, It’s About time, covers meetings, structuring your day and doing more with less is available in bookstores around Australia or can be ordered online via Donna’s website at www.donnamcgeorge.com.