Let me get right to the point: I think many, many meetings are too long. Sometimes, what we do in an hour meeting could have been done in a fifteen-minute meeting. Here are some ways to keep meetings short:
- Decrease the time set apart for the meeting. If you schedule an hour, you’re likely to fill the hour—whether or not you have something to say. Schedule only ½ hour, and get the work done.
- Back up the meeting with another appointment. If you calendar something immediately after the meeting, you have to end the meeting on time – or the rest of the day is behind.
- Genuinely lead the meeting. That is, be in charge. Move the discussion along. If the meeting goes long because the group gets off task, the fault lies at the feet of the one who leads the meeting.
- Have a clear agenda. Meetings that start without a clear direction tend to wander without purpose. On the agenda, include time allotted for each item.
- Limit the participants. If you don’t need everyone in the room, don’t invite everyone to the meeting. More people=more voices=more likelihood that the meeting will go long.
- Have a pre-meeting conversation with “the talker.” You know the person I’m talking about—he or she always has something to say. A gentle, loving “We need to move through this meeting, so I’m asking you to hold your questions for a different time” might help.
- Start the meeting on time. For those who arrive on time, waiting for the stragglers only lengthens the time of their meeting. Start on time, regardless of who’s there. They’ll figure out they need to get there on time.
- Require participants to put their phones down during the meeting. They usually only distract. In fact, I’ve written about why I need to put my phone down more regularly—not only in meetings.
- Plan a significant ending. For example, state up front: “We’re going to deal with this issue in this meeting, and we’re going to end with five minutes of prayer about it—so let’s stay focused as we get ready to pray.” Your team will work through its agenda in an expedient way to leave the time for prayer.
- Think stewardship. God gives us only a certain amount of time. Use it wisely.
What other suggestions would you give?