The old default of one-hour meetings is no longer fit for purpose in today’s busy world. If you are expected, like many executives, to attend upwards of 20 meetings per week, one-hour meetings become totally impossible. Because often it’s not just the actual time attending meetings but also the travel time and preparation time that need to be accounted for.
And then there is our attention span. Humans just can’t focus for an hour or more. In a recent study by Harvard business School it was found that the average meeting goes on for one hour 19 minutes but most people stop being effective long before that. On average managers lose focus after 52 minutes and the younger generation have an even shorter attention span. Managers aged below 35 lose focus after just 45 minutes. So it is clear that our default of one-hour meetings cannot be effective – we just don’t have the attention span for it.
Maybe we need to go even further and look at the science behind the universally popular TED talks. TED curator, Chris Anderson says: “18 minutes is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”
Reading through all of this research made me think: what if we created a brand-new default? What if we leveraged our attention span? At minute 15 in a meeting, our attention span should still be at its highest level. Surely, within the first 15 minutes we will be as effective and productive as we will ever be. The first 15 minutes is when we are at top performance. So why not have meetings only when we are in top performance? And that is where the 15-minute meeting comes in.
I truly believe that the 15-minute meeting can work very effectively if we have a clear agenda, a meeting chairperson who keeps control and clear action points for each attendee at the end.
Would you be able to adopt a new 15-minute default for meetings?
Tiana Wilson-Buys is a Business Coach and Productivity Strategist. She offers a free 30-minute virtual meeting to help you get organised. Book your slot here.