The length of meeting should be determined by what needs to happen, not by how much time is available. Different people, different topics, and different decision making processes mean that each meeting is unique. Despite the differences, almost every meeting is scheduled in the same half-hour increments. When sending a meeting invite to your team, you’re stuck deciding between two imperfect options. Your mouse may hover on 30 minutes as you think “well, I guess we don’t need a decision until next week…”, then it scurries to 60 as you consider “…but Jason is traveling until Tuesday...”
Meetings are discussions, each with a a different purpose. And most of these discussions do not fit neatly into 30 or 60 minute windows. But due to norms that grew up around scheduling, which were codified by business software (Outlook, the granddaddy of office software, defaults to these meeting lengths), we’re stuck with meetings in increments of 30 minutes. What we end up with is bloated meetings. You only need 50 minutes but you end up booking 60. 50 minutes to discuss what needs to be discussed and an extra ten minutes of filler; empty calories hindering your effort toward lean efficiency.
Why not try 25 minutes and 50 minutes as your default meeting lengths? It may take a few extra clicks to get there, but when you consistently add five minutes of free time to your day the savings add up fast. Not every meeting will fit in these time blocks either, but it’s a start. Not only will your meetings be more efficient, you gain back valuable five and ten minute buffer times – like gulps of fresh air on the days you’re drowning in meetings. Use them to check your email, grab a cup of coffee, or go to the bathroom. Plus, if one meeting ends at 12:55 and another starts at 1:00, you (and everyone else) have a very good chance of actually getting to that next meeting on time – a victory in itself.
More time in a meeting does not equal more productivity, and it most certainly does not equal more efficiency. Remember, when you’re scheduling a meeting, it’s not just your time you’re taking up; it’s everyone else's time, too. A wasted ten minutes in a meeting with twelve people is actually two hours of lost time – not to mention the time wasted when everyone is late to the next meeting. Try scheduling your next “30 minute meeting” for 25 minutes and notice how much more efficiently you use the time. Then enjoy a quick breather with those extra five minutes of transition time!