The Three Meeting Rule

Meetings are rarely ever doing. Constraining the daily meetings forces choice and improves effectiveness.

When I started as a consultant I carried over practices from corporate life. I wanted to fill my days with meetings. I had a need to network and to build my business. I needed to tell my story and win work. I took a lot of meetings and spent days running around town.

I was soon reminded how unproductive the meeting circuit was. Taking every meeting chewed up lots of time, created lots of activity and spent energy. The commutes between meetings alone took hours. However it delivered few results.

Reflecting on my lack of productivity I implemented a daily rule of no more than 3 meetings. Limiting meetings had an immediate benefit in creating time to think, to do work and to make choices. A limit also made me much more focused on which meetings to take. I also found that many other meetings could be swapped for a quick phone call, a video chat or an exchange of information.

Any arbitrary rule should always be honoured in the breach. I occasionally take another meeting but now I do so reflecting on the value of that meeting and its cost in my time. Overall my productivity has risen as I look for other ways to get work done.

How would a limit on meetings work for you?

Save yourself 20+ hours a week

Print out a view of this week in your diary.

Circle every meeting that is about solving one specific objective that needs the input of others to be achieved this week. Strike out the rest of the meetings.

Now look at the meetings that are circled. Can any of these collaborations be achieved another way, another week or in less time?

Strike any that are simply to share information, gather ideas or could be delegated to one person to manage. Strike out the meetings to make decisions and delegate or run an experiment with these decisions instead. Shrink any meeting that runs longer than the conversation needed.

Many of the meetings that got struck out will be imposed by others or are just part of a routine in your organisation. Have a hard conversation with the convenor of these meetings about how to manage them differently. The other people in these meetings will thank you for saving them wasted time.

What remains in your diary will be your high value collaboration. Meetings should be just for collaboration with others that create value. You can better use the time otherwise.

Focusing meetings on creating the maximum amount of value from your time releases a huge amount of wasted time. One of the biggest advantages of my independent life is the time released from ineffective meetings and the ability to focus my time on meetings that matter.

Releasing time is the most effective way to create potential to do more. Strike out a meeting or two today. Use your time wisely.

Now you have the time go have a coffee with someone and get to know them better.