Running Successful Meetings: Avoiding The Time Trap


Much of any leader’s day is spent either attending meetings or leading them. I’m often overwhelmed by my client’s near all-day marathon of meetings. It reminds me of a conversation from the movie A Hard Day’s Night when Paul McCartney, explains the rigors of a popular musician’s life—“From a car to a room to a train, to a car, to a room, to another room..” Such are the joys of meetings.

You can have some control over your marathon of meetings and it starts with planning. You can plan your meetings so they don’t take up all the available time you have for any day.

Here’s what meeting leaders must realize: a vacuum can never be truly empty. Something always fills it up. In the case of meetings, when they are scheduled for an hour, guess what? They take an hour. The “vacuum” is filled.

What if you began scheduling meetings for how long you think they should run? What’s the problem with 15-minute meetings? What’s wrong with cancelling a meeting when there’s nothing really critical to discuss? These are not rhetorical questions—the answer is, “Nothing is wrong.”

So, avoid the time trap of scheduling all of your meetings for an hour or half hour or even two hours. Plan ahead and think through how much time you think the meeting needs for the agenda and purpose. Here’s a tip: when you’re doing this planning also think all the other tasks, creative, or strategic thinking you could be doing in the time you will save by planning the meeting’s time allocation. Better yet, think of all the people in the meeting and how much they could accomplish if the meeting time was set right and they were free to work, think, or call one more customer.

Time limits create a healthy and positive sense of urgency. They give people freedom to express, but also freedom to know they can have some time to do productive and creative work instead of just sitting in a meeting where the vacuum of time if being filled.

Try this idea for a month and discover not only how much time you’ll save, but also what great things—new products, new ideas, new strategies—you can develop instead of letting time just fill the vacuum.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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