Overly long meetings are such a pain in the ass! They drain energy, quickly make you unmotivated and defocused.
This Sunday, I will have a business call at 1 pm with a friend of mine that tends to babble a little bit too much. Our calls often extend to more than a couple of hours without being too productive.
After such a call ends, I usually feel mildly depressed. So much time wasted! Certainly, neither he nor I enjoy blabbering for two hours. However, when we talk, it usually turns out to be exactly that way.
I believe I have found a solution.
Research suggests that humans do not keep focus for longer than 45 minutes. Some even believe that our attention span is roughly 20 minutes. Such beliefs gave birth to techniques such as Pomodoro, which I’m sure many people have heard about.
Cutting meetings short may sometimes be tricky. Perhaps, you and your colleague do not have enough willpower left in the tank after a long day of work. Maybe, neither of you wants to offend the other person. Whatever the reasons are, it is self-evident that making a decision to cut the meeting short prior is easier than doing so while it’s still going on.
Often people will agree to fixed length meetings as a remedy. Even that may not be enough in some cases. It unquestionably does not work in the case of my buddy and me. What should he and I do then?
The problem is that your ‘calendar,’ whether mental or physical, is free right after.
Imagine that you have a meeting scheduled from 2:30 pm to 3 pm. There is likely no other meeting or activity scheduled to commence exactly at 3 pm. What do you do if you drift off during the meeting? If you’re anything like me, you procrastinate and extend it. After all, there was nothing significant enough to be put on the calendar, right?
This is precisely my solution to the puzzle. If you have a meeting that is likely to go out of control, fix a time for something, anything, right after it. If you want your meeting to end by 3 pm, schedule a trash bin clear out or a coffee break from 3 to 3:15. It is much easier to cut the unfruitful meeting short if you have something concrete on your list. Studies show that making a commitment, however small, increases the probability of completing the action one made the commitment to.
What about my friend and our Sunday meeting? Well, I have a haircut appointment for 2 pm, exactly one hour later. I will have no other choice but to be productive with him and do my best to hash out as many issues as possible in under 1 hour.
One important point to make is that some meetings are enormously valuable. I think that we at Qoints do a reasonably good job of spending our time in one room efficiently. I would rather not apply the trick I described to fruitful meetings. However, in many other cases, I will be applying it religiously. My time is valuable, and so is yours.