Free up time – it doesn’t need to be a meeting

We talk alot about the ROI known as Return On Energy, but I also find it equally important to honour time. After all, I love the concept of being a Time Billionaire – people who have a richness of time at their disposal, and who love what they do with this time.

And often, one of the first autopilot defenses against making any changes, like growing one’s mental fitness, upping one’s performance, taking better care of oneself, is “I don’t have enough time.” You can always hear it in the codeword “That’d be nice to have, if only my life was [insert condition].

Here’s the deal. I’m not here to clog up your To-Do List. I live by the ethos of having the ability to breathe— not just in terms of physical spaces, but also in terms of my schedule. One of the first things I start with is to free up time from the time you already spend. Meetings.

In this Harvard Business Review piece, “182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.” That’s… a lot.

And, even if it were a 30-minute meeting, which technically doesn’t seem that bad, it’s not just 30-minutes. It’s the dread before, during, and after.

This suck on your time and energy is a compound interest that works against you. If you wouldn’t want to risk your money and sanity with loan sharks, why are you doing that with your meetings?

What qualifies something as a meeting?

Think back to all the times you thought the meeting was absolutely unnecessary.

  • Who was it with?
  • Are they always at the same slot, and the allegiance is often to that timeslot rather than having a real purpose?
  • What topics are being discussed?
  • What categories of the discussion make it redundant?
  • What was way too tedious and laborious?

Often, I get feedback from teams I work with, that it’s the instructions on what to execute that don’t have to be a meeting. Conversely, people like space for intentional problem-solving or reflecting in order to grow.

Can it be a call or an email?

Some questions are simple, they necessitate only a two-minute phone call or a quick email. The problem is we think we need to wait till (calling for) the X-minute meeting, and then we spin it out to occupy the entire span of time.

Prep what you’re gonna say

The problem with meetings is that people go in unprepared. There is a lot of yammering about and droning. We tumble down the rabbit holes of unenjoyable and anxiety-raising off-tangents. The initial issues don’t get solved, and because people become infected by each other to adopt a problem-focused perspective, there’s tunnel-vision.

The antidote is simple. Write down 2-3 headlines on what you’re gonna cover.

Reread for thoughtfulness

Just because it’s an email and everyone’s busy doesn’t mean you don’t spellcheck.

Of course, it’s not about having the perfect flowery prose. Rather, it’s about thoughtful consideration. Because, hands up everyone who’s sent an email and then started to read it after sending over and over again, getting worried if they said the right thing?

With your 2-3 headlines, write as cogently as possible.

I love to employ ‘The Child Litmus Test’ – short of the technical terms you might use, would a child be able to understand what you’re saying?

This is totally worth spending a little time to buy more time for.

“I only have X minutes”

This is a great way to set time boundaries on a phone call. Otherwise, there’s no urgency that contains the discussion, and the time will haemorrhage.

When you have X minutes, you’re both forced to focus on the crux.

The follow-up

After a call, you can use this template:

  • Here’s what we agreed on:
  • Here’s what we’ll do:
  • Here’s when we’ll check-in:

Putting that all in short and concise writing, there can be no doubt. Everyone involved is in the email or chat loop.

Remember, brevity is your friend. And with all the time you gain back, it’s your reward to spend it however you like. It’s a fantabulous win-win-win for you, them, and the team/organisation/project.

If you would like to discuss frameworks for improving the collective cognitive energy by reducing the time your company or team spends in meetings, please contact us to book your 45 min complimentary Performance Call.