4 Reasons Your Meetings Should Only Last 30 Minutes

Image: Idea Go at Freedigitalphotos.net

Image: Idea Go at Freedigitalphotos.net

For the vast majority of my career – in both nonprofits and the corporate sector – meetings were scheduled for 60 minutes. It was the norm. Then about four years ago, I started working with a nonprofit organization whose staff scheduled their meetings for 30 minutes. 

My first thought was, “30 minutes? How will we get anything done?” I quickly realized that 30 minutes is plenty of time to get things done. In fact, I now believe that 30-minute meetings are often more effective than 60-minute meetings! 

Here are 4 reasons I recommend you adopt 30-minute meetings pronto:

1. You often don’t need 60 minutes

The practice of 60-minute meetings has more to do with habit than actually needing 60 minutes to tackle the business at hand. Electronic calendars default to 60-minute meetings so that’s what we do, too.

Once at a meeting, we all seem preprogramed to use the time allotted, whether we need it or not. If we have an hour scheduled, we take up the whole hour. We spend more time debating every issue, going off on tangents or hanging around making small talk after business is concluded. So, spare yourself—and everyone else—the agony of wasting another 30 minutes by scheduling only 30 minutes from the get-go.

2. Everyone shows up, and is on time

With only 30 minutes to get work done every second counts, so meeting attendees tend to show up on time. And if you’re trying to include busy directors or VPs at your meetings, they will be more likely to attend, knowing you are not taking up a whole hour of their limited time.

3. People are more likely to come prepared

Again, because every second counts, there’s no time wasted on tangents or no-where conversations. And if you provide your agenda in advance of the meeting (highly recommended!) people know what will be covered and will put some thought into it ahead of time. The limited time enhances focus and attention.

4. Everyone will be happier

Ok, maybe not everyone. But lots of people think lots of meetings are a big waste of time. So if you want to boost morale—including your own—try scheduling your next meeting for 30 minutes. Your fellow staffers will thank you.

How to make 30-minute meetings work for you

To make the most of your 30 minutes, prepare an agenda and send it out ahead of time. In thinking about your meeting, if you can’t possibly imagine how you’ll contain it to a half hour, start over and rethink the purpose of the meeting. Narrow its scope so you’re not trying to do too much. 

To be clear, the focus of this post is internal meetings. But sometimes, short meetings can be perfect for your visits with donors. Check out Struggling to Schedule Donor Meetings? 3 Tips to Make it Happen. 

One final thought: know that highly focused meetings take some practice and a lot of energy. On the flip side, you’ll have more time in your life for relaxing with family or friends and other pursuits outside of your office. 

For more tips on using your limited time wisely, check out Say No to These 3 Time-Wasters.

What are your thoughts on 30-minute meetings? I encourage you to give them a try! And share your tips and advice in the Comments box below.

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