Sasha D'Arcy23 August 2021

If only I had more time….

How to have less meetings and get more time back for the things that matter.

If you could reduce the amount of meetings you’re having by 25-50% each week, what would you do with that additional time? For most people this sounds like one of those desert mirages. Beautiful and shiny from a distance, but when you get up close, it’s always just out of reach.

Harvard Business School analysed data from over 3 million people in 16 global cities and found that people are attending more meetings and working longer days in this COVID work-from-home environment. Similarly, Microsoft tracked their global staff data and found that meeting time is up 10 percent. Which equates to around three additional meetings per week per employee. Yikes.

Meetings, and the frequency at which they are set, can often feel out of our hands. You might be in a national or even a global team working across different time zones. Or perhaps meetings are the preferred method of communication in your organisation. However, we know from Professor Cal Newport’s research that constantly being in and out of meetings is a real disruptor to engaging in deep focused work that adds value.

Short of demanding that all meeting organisers are on the free tier of Zoom, there are plenty of hacks that you can implement today to minimise your time spent in meetings and maximise the outcomes from those that remain. Here at Inventium we’ve adopted a whole host of strategies to build future fit organisations and optimise how we work. One of our big goals is to Inventium-ise work for people everywhere, which means sharing our learnings along the way. Whether your meetings are online or in-person, here are three evidence-based ways to maximise meeting efficiency and get more time back for the things that matter:

1. Batch your meetings.

Similar to the joy you receive from pulling a frozen curry out of the freezer, batching meetings is another excellent use of the batching principle. Batching meetings is when you book your meetings back to back to reduce that dawdle stage in between. Research out of Ohio State University found that people who knew they had a meeting coming up in an hour or two were 22% less productive compared to those who didn’t have a meeting booked in.

As a morning person, I like to batch my meetings in the afternoon. This means I get time back for focused work in the morning, and the afternoons are optimised to avoid that 3pm procrastination slump.

2. No agenda, no attenda

Laura Mae Martin, Google’s Executive Productivity Advisor (yes that is an actual role), discusses on the How I Work podcast, that she uses the principle of “no agenda, no attenda” for meetings. Her team knows that she will flatly decline meetings, no questions asked, if there’s no agenda in the invite.

Here at Inventium we use our own alternative to this principle. We use the acronym PAO: Purpose, Agenda and Outcomes to determine who needs to be at meetings and whether the meeting needs to happen at all. Perhaps an email would suffice? Try adding a PAO to the next meeting invite that you book, or chat to your team about incorporating this method into meeting culture.

3. Default to Speedy Meetings

Don’t default to 30 or 60 meeting meetings. Parkinson’s law tells us that tasks will expand to fill the time available for their completion. If you set aside one hour for a meeting, I’m here to tell you, it will take an hour. GCal and Outlook have 25 or 50 minute defaults that can be set by selecting the “speedy meetings” option in settings.

Or set your own default! Here at Inventium, we default to 15 minute meetings. You’d be surprised by how much you can get done when you come prepared with your PAO.

Start small and try one of these tips this week. If you want more productivity and workday optimisation hacks, sign up to Inventium’s 5-week Workday Reinvention Program and see a 21% increase in your productivity, 20% increase in job satisfaction and a whopping 28% increase in energy levels.