The secret of successful 25 minute meetings

| September 5, 2018

Business professionals everywhere in every company need meetings. We need them at work because when they work, they are valuable. Clear actions get set, decisions are made and the whole business moves forward.

But what we don’t need is for meetings to waste our time, money and resources.

Too often I have heard business people say that they spend all day in meetings, so their evenings (when they should be with their families, friends or enjoying leisure time) are spent doing their actual work or catching up on emails they have missed.

Parkinson’s Law explains that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. Hence, when you give people time to get stuff done, they will use whatever time you allow them.

That is what happens when we default to 60-minute meetings, where in fact, we could get the same amount of work done in half that time.

So what we need is a 25-minute meeting. A meeting that is short, sharp and productive. A meeting that gets the job done efficiently. A meeting that gets more value in way less time.

Half the time, double the value

As far back as 1911, Frederick Taylor Winslow, one of the very first management consultants, made the connection between productivity, effort, and rest or breaks. He found that people who gave a focused amount of effort for 25 minutes, and then spent the next 35 minutes resting, increased productivity by 600 per cent.

In addition, Francesco Cirillo’s book The Pomodoro Technique centres around short bursts of work for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a short 5-minute break. This choice of 25 minutes was not arbitrary and was based on several different trials, experiments and iterations.

It’s a fact: when we concentrate our efforts in shorter, controlled periods of time, then we achieve more. So here’s how to have a super productive meeting in just 25 minutes (yes, really).

The 25-minute meeting plan

Even if you can’t get every single meeting down to 25 minutes, when you apply the following principles, you will almost definitely reduce the amount of time you are wasting in unproductive meetings.

1. Set yourself up for success

What is the purpose of the meeting? If there is no purpose, then there is no meeting. It really is as simple as that. When you’re sure you have a good reason to meet, then, and only then, do you think about inviting anybody else. Who are the right people to be there? Answer: it is not everyone and the cat. Be clear on the process you will follow to get the outcomes desired from the meeting.

2. Show up ready to go by setting clear rules of engagement

Send out a focused agenda well in advance to give everyone time to prepare. Be clear on the start time and start-on time, no matter what, and who. You will start the meeting on time regardless of whether everyone is there (senior managers included!) Ban (or at least limit) tech during the meeting to keep everyone’s focus.

3. Have everyone step up and share their genius with the group

Use Scan, Focus, Act, which was devised by Jim Channon, Frank Burns and Linda Nelson in 1983 to conduct the meeting and produce results.

Scan (12 minutes). What are we here for? What is the context surrounding the meeting? What do people have to contribute to the discussion?
Focus (8 minutes). What are the two or three things that require our attention, or are driving our decision making or problem solving?
Act (5 minutes). What else do we need to do? What actions are required? What will happen next?

Decide now and switch

Making the decision to do 25-minute meetings is at the heart of your success.
Follow through on your commitments and actions before, during and after the meeting to hold your new strategy and everyone involved to account. I promise once you do this, you will become a 25-minute meeting action hero in no time.

9 steps to a 25-minuite meeting

1. Purpose – Why are we here?
2. People – Who do we need?
3. Process – How will we work?
4. Prepared – I’m ready
5. Punctual – I’m here
6. Present – I’m focused
7. Participate – We contribute
8. Produce – We do the work
9. Proceed – We follow through