Short fuse for long meetings !

I choose this time to write this blog because in many Indian corporations, the work day has wound down and in many American corporations, and American corporations with Indian operations, the work day is half-way through. This is the “no-man’s land” of working hours, perfect to make my point.

How was your day today ? Was it death by presentations, death by meetings or death by goals that were met or unmet ? :). Get that nth cup of coffee and take 5 minutes to read this.

I don’t like long meetings because I believe that human beings waste time when they have lots of it. The world before the knowledge era was simpler because you woke up, got dressed and went to work in a factory, turned screws or hit a hammer or made sheets of steel for 8 hours and sometimes longer with pre-defined breaks and clearly defined work activities. You had overtime if you wanted to earn some more money.

Then came the knowledge era and machines took over the repetitive mundane factory work. And time is now spent behind a snazzy laptop or with your neck tilted on a smart phone or looking down at tablet (not the eating kind). Never ending Emails, constant phone calls and endless meetings became work and how you managed these three decided how your day went. The one on which most people have the least control over are the endless meetings.

Here are some rules that help me with the endless meetings –

  1. I have a simple rule of keeping meetings short – 30 minutes at best. My admin, when I was working with Aon Hewitt had just one instruction to manage my calendar, to keep most meetings to just 30 minutes. Its easy to keep the meetings over several hours and remaining cooped up inside a room does little to cheer you up. Also short meetings ensure that you get to the business at hand right away.
  2. Pre-read. Send any docs that will be discussed in the meeting preferably a day before !. Atleast an agenda. That way you have a definite set of things you discuss. If people don’t read the pre-read, reschedule the meeting.
  3. Answer the “why”. Why are you having the meeting and what do you hope to accomplish? Just get that clear in your head.
  4. What needs to get done. A list of actions that flow from the meeting with clear accountability so that the meeting is fruitful.

I try and avoid “FYI” meetings and ask for an email to be sent and I refuse to reply or read emails that are “CYA” kinds.

So make your meetings better and productive. Send the pre-read and try to keep the meetings short. Avoid “death by meetings” :):)


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