I once heard Seth Godin give a talk to a group of marketers in London. After this session, someone asked his secret to being so productive. Seth not only publishes books and starts ventures, he famously finds the time to reply personally to every single email he receives.
Seth replied simply, “I don’t watch TV and I don’t go to meetings.”
That really resonated with me. I’ve worked in organizations where more than 75% of every calendar day was blocked with internal meetings.
Seth has written extensively on the soul-sapping plague of internal meetings. Here is one of his classic prescriptions on kicking the meeting habit:
1. Understand that all problems are not the same. So why are your meetings? Does every issue deserve an hour? Why is there a default length?
2. Schedule meetings in increments of five minutes. Require that the meeting organizer have a truly great reason to need more than four increments of realtime face time.
3. Require preparation. Give people things to read or do before the meeting, and if they don’t, kick them out.
4. Remove all the chairs from the conference room. I’m serious.
5. If someone is more than two minutes later than the last person to the meeting, they have to pay a fine of $10 to the coffee fund.
6. Bring an egg timer to the meeting. When it goes off, you’re done. Not your fault, it’s the timer’s.
7. The organizer of the meeting is required to send a short email summary, with action items, to every attendee within ten minutes of the end of the meeting.
9. If you’re not adding value to a meeting, leave. You can always read the summary later.
Here’s a related cartoon I drew a few years ago on “The meeting after the meeting”.