How important is time to you? If you answered this question with anything other than "the most important," you may need to take a step back and rethink your response before reading on. Time is the most important thing in our lives. It is the ultimate equalizer and the most fleeting asset we have; billionaires and aspiring entrepreneurs alike are subject to the whim of time. When it comes to business, maximizing your time can be the most rewarding and beneficial thing you can do, both for yourself and for your business.
The importance of time is something that I believe everyone understands, however subconsciously. Yet we all seem to find ways to waste our most valuable asset. Procrastination, apathy, and indecision are all thieves of our time, to name just a few. The biggest thief and culprit, however, isn't an attitude like the thieves I mentioned previously. In fact, the biggest thief of our time doesn't even steal it, we give it away willingly. Yes, I'm talking about the time we allot for meetings.
To me, drawn out meetings are the antithesis of productivity. I've read that meetings are the favorite past-time of procrastinators, and I agree whole-heartedly. There isn't a more efficient way to be inefficient than to schedule long meetings, and you can ensure that inefficiency by including large groups of people within those meetings. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been included in a meeting about a topic I neither need to know about nor have the knowledge to contribute to. The idea of holding a meeting is to disseminate information, decide on strategy and tactics, and promote organizational unity, but often times the meeting does the exact opposite of what it's trying to accomplish; it adds inefficiency.
Luckily it's not the meetings themselves that unnecessarily take up our time, it's the amount of time we allow to be dedicated to those meetings. Rather than scheduling blocks of times for meetings, I like to employ what I call fly by meetings. These meetings, just like the companies who use them, are quick and agile, and they disseminate information in a way that allows its participants to make timely and informed decisions.
It's important that you keep these fly by meetings to thirty minutes or less, no exceptions. This will force the participants to think well ahead about not only what they are going to say, but how they are going to tailor their message to the audience to get their point across quickly and efficiently. I've also found it helpful to schedule "time-lish" meetings rather than timely meetings. Keep meeting times flexible. Scheduling a meeting on a certain day and specifying it as either a morning meeting or afternoon meeting gives people a more flexible, and therefore a more productive, work day. Trust me, everyone has enough on their plate to keep themselves busy both before and after these time-lish meetings.
Finally, keep the number of participants in these fly by meetings to a minimum. This will ensure the agility of the meeting. If you require a larger meeting where information needs to be disseminated to the entire organization, for example, I suggest having a couple fly by meetings with various teams within your business, and then holding a Q&A session with the entire organization at a predetermined time of the day. This ensures that people aren't wasting their time while smaller teams are discussing tactics or strategy, but still allows the entire organization to be on the same page.
I know from personal experience that busy business leaders - the CEO of the company I am currently working with, for example - appreciate these types of meetings. It allows for maximum information sharing while minimizing the time it takes to share that information. When time is money - and it always is, cliche or not - implementing fly by meetings into your organization will pay off, literally.