Productive Meetings: How Long Should They Be?

You may be tired of long, drawn out meetings, but is the answer a 5-minute meeting? According to a recent article, an executive at a 1,500-employee digital agency started holding 5-minute meetings. We all know about the long-winded speaker or the meeting without an agenda, but is the 5-minute meeting “throwing out the baby with the bathwater?” Time may be needed to “mull it over,” lighten up, or encourage creativity.

Of course, there are times, when brevity is essential and decisions must be made, but we don’t want to miss opportunities for information exchange, social interaction, approvals, graciousness, and yes, even humor.  For example, three decades ago, Sheila Feigelson, PhD described how to energize your meetings with laughter. She provided a guide for making meetings more productive by putting lighthearted humor and fun to work.

Humor and fun activities have their place, especially when tension is in the air. In addition, many meetings can be more productive. There are numerous suggestions provided by experts.  For example, send an itemized, time-suggested agenda before the meeting, assign someone to be the timekeeper, and encourage listening and participation. You may need to increase positive assertive skills. Ask, “How well do I manage the person who goes off on a tangent?”

If it’s time to revamp and “wake up” your meetings, here are simple ways to start:

5 Tips to Enhance Meeting Productivity

  1. Cancel a weekly or monthly meeting if there is nothing new to discuss, share, or decide. If simple decisions are required, send out a brief survey, such as Survey Monkey.
  2. Allot 10- to 15-minutes at the end of the meeting for “quiet, think time” during which participants can clearly outline next steps, responsibilities, schedules and monitoring activities.
  3. Allot a few minutes between meetings for transitions. This prevents overwhelming overwhelm at the end of the day or week. Take time for a brief break and organize files or materials.
  4. Include cartoons, quotes, images, and silly stuff, to de stress and get everyone’s focus on the task at hand.
  5. Avoid using digital devices during meetings unless it is directly related to the task at hand. Catching up on your email while others are talking is disrespectful and distracting to others.

Like any idea or tool, the 5-minute meeting has specific uses and benefits. Given your goals and types of meetings, think about ways you can create an atmosphere for productivity and positive interaction. Is there a place to include the 5-minute meeting?

You’re the best judge of your team, but sometimes you may have to try different types and lengths of meetings, depending on the people, personalities, work habits, schedules and goals at hand.  There are no hard and fast rules, and probably the best gauge as to whether your meetings are productive is the set of outcomes – work produced and positive attitudes of your team.

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