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5 Ways to Spend Less Time in Meetings Each Week Want to get more done — and be happier at work? Spend less time in meetings. Here are five ways to do that.

By Tivi Jones Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Modern executives spend over 20 hours weekly in meetings, and 65% say the meetings keep them from doing their work.
  • These five strategies will help you streamline communication processes, enhance meeting effectiveness and minimize time spent in meetings, allowing you to focus more on business growth and productivity.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As entrepreneurs, we know effective communication is essential for running teams, managing clients and growing our businesses. But what happens when the core vehicle we use for communication starts making our work less effective and enjoyable?

According to Harvard Business Review, modern executives spend over 20 hours weekly in meetings, and 65% say the meetings keep them from doing their work.

For an entrepreneur, ineffective and unproductive meetings are at best a distraction — and at worst — detrimental to business growth. In fact, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, your satisfaction in your enterprise is also negatively impacted, because the effectiveness of meetings directly correlates to satisfaction at work. Luckily, there are some solutions to getting your time (and satisfaction) back. Here are five strategies I've adopted to reduce my time spent in meetings each week.

Related: Data Doesn't Lie: Shorter Meetings Can Make You 3X More Productive

1. Implement calendar rules

Calendar rules are a set of standards for managing your calendar. They help you, your team and your clients understand when you are available for meetings. Additionally, they're tools to help you avoid being "always on" for everyone else's schedule. The simplest calendar rules indicate your work hours, when you're available for meetings and when you'll be working on other things.

A few years ago, while I was struggling with my work-life balance, my Operations Manager and I created calendar rules for me as the CEO of our company. We wrote out the individual rules, adding things like "no more than three meetings per day" and "only have externally facing meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays." Then, we created a mock-up of my typical weekly calendar that we could share while programming it automatically using our preferred calendar software.

For example, one of my calendar rules is I don't have meetings after 4:30 pm, so I updated my calendar software to automatically decline meetings sent to me during off hours.

2. Have a progressive scale for evaluating your communications vehicle

Not all communications updates need to be meetings. We have options for connecting with our teams and clients. Limit the time you spend in meetings by implementing a progressive scale for determining the best way to communicate certain information. Start with nothing as the baseline, then ascend in commitment level from there.

For example, if some form of communication is required, consider asynchronous communication (direct message or email) then a phone call. From there, you can progress to a video call or in-person meeting. Adapt your communications vehicle needs to what you're sharing to optimize your time and the team's productivity.

Related: Win Back Your Time With These 4 Alternatives to Boring Meetings

3. Shorten your default meeting times

Not every meeting should be an hour. In fact, according to Parkinson's Law, work will expand to fit the time allotted … if you make an hour — or 12.5% of the average workday — the default to discuss items. Automatically shorten all your meetings. If your default is one hour, make the default 30 to 45 minutes instead. However, if your default is 30 minutes, consider shortening regular meetings to 15-20 minutes.

If you need extra help implementing this rule, I use Google Calendar for our company to automate this process on my calendar. There's a setting called "speedy meetings" you can turn on to shorten the default length of your meeting times.

4. Adopt a more productive meeting template

A big beef entrepreneurs have with meetings is their ineffectiveness. Some of this ineffectiveness is because meetings aren't properly planned for or led. I get around this by always having an assigned meeting facilitator, running each meeting from an agenda, and having clear meeting outputs and next steps.

The strategic framework process we use for this is called an IPO meeting structure; this includes input, process and output. The input section allows for our team to pre-plan and compile any necessary files for the meeting ahead of time. With this strategy, we don't waste time looking for important items during the actual meeting. The process section is the agenda or topics for discussion. We typically outline this section and take notes in a shared document on each section of the "process" agenda. The output section is developed during each meeting and includes each party's next steps and assignments.

5. Use technology to streamline communication

Planning and intentionality are the best tools for limiting the time we spend in meetings each week. Thankfully, with technology, we can scale that planning and intentionality to work for us even when we aren't actively thinking about maintaining our ideal work schedule. A few tools I use in my business are:

Slack (or another intra-office communications system): What I like about Slack is I can quickly check and respond to inquiries from my team without needing meetings. Additionally, Slack offers a company-wide searchable record of project history. One thing to remember with Slack, as with any communications system, is that it can be a distraction if you let it. I encourage you to create some standard operating procedures for how you use the system.

Instead of always being on with Slack throughout the day and allowing yourself to be interrupted and distracted, set a rule that you only check Slack three to five times daily. In case of emergencies or time-sensitive items, tell your team to call you.

Voice or video notes: Occasionally subtleties get lost when you send messages via text. To avoid this, I recommend using voice or video notes for your team; particularly if you send specific instructions or feedback. The benefit of a video or phone call is you can easily relay information with your voice and/or by sharing your screen, but this isn't limited to appointments only. Sending asynchronous voice or video messages still allows you to give specific instructions without scheduling a meeting. Software like Slack, Loom or even text messages allow you to do this.

Shared project notes: When I started building my agency's virtual team several years ago, we implemented a practice of using a shared meeting notes document per client to capture and track our project history.

These shared meeting notes have evolved to be an efficient way for team members who can't attend meetings to catch up on what happened. This also works for generating automatic meeting recaps for clients. These recaps allow clients to easily track project updates and have a clear record of their next steps and outputs for the project, which inevitably makes our next meeting with them more productive.

Related: How Companies Are Using Web Services to Make Meetings Efficient

As an entrepreneur, you owe it to yourself to adopt modern tools to prevent ineffective meetings from derailing your progress. Whether it's adopting calendar rules to inform when and what you're working on, using a progressive scale for evaluating communications vehicles, shortening your default meeting times, using a more productive meeting template or using technology for improved communications, each of these is a tool you can use to spend less time in meetings and more time building your empire.

Tivi Jones

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Mission-Driven Business Owner, Partner + Leader

Tivi Jones is a mission-driven founder, CEO, leader, and coach. She leads marketing, media, consulting, and community development teams. She enjoys tackling big issues with empathy, efficiency, intentionality & a bit of humor. She has appeared on PBS, RollingStone, Time, People en Español & more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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