Have you ever come out of a meeting and felt dead tired?

Yep, so have I.

Sometimes it’s because it is almost lunchtime. Other times I might not have slept enough. But more often the meeting was way too long or the quality wasn’t good.

It felt like a waste of time and energy.

Meetings seem to last as long as they are scheduled for. Does that mean that we’re so good at estimating the needed length of our meetings? I don’t think so. We fill the scheduled time even if the topics could be handled in less time. Result: some participants grow impatient. They start staring at the clock, their phone, or the wall. You can see them think, “Oh no, please stop talking.” Or something like, “Yes, you’ve already said that.” The other participants feel that impatience; feel less confident, and start …. – Yes, you got it – start talking more.

The end result is a meeting enforcing each other’s bad behavior. Everybody leaves the room exhausted.

So, what can you do to limit your time spent in meetings – especially when you’re not the one in charge of it?

A couple of tips:

Tip 1 –  Attend only your part

When you get an invitation ask yourself, “Do I need to be in this meeting?” If the answer is “yes” then your next question is “Do I need to be there for the whole meeting?”

If your answer to that second question is “No”, then communicate clearly what agenda items you will attend and your reason to attend only those.

Tip 2 – Invite From Added Value Not From Being Polite

Inviting people to a meeting can be grounded in politeness. Or it has become a habit: the same people are invited because they have always been there in the past. But do they really need to be there? Before you hit “invite,” ask yourself if that person needs to be in the meeting. Can that person add value in another way?

Tip 3 – Spend one minute on silence: the Power Minute

A Power Minute is a minute with no talking at the start of the meeting. This sounds like a waste of time but it isn’t. Attendants can become present during that minute or connect to what they want to get out of the meeting. The quality of the meeting will go up and you get more things done.

Try it. You don’t have much to loose. It’s only a minute.

Tip 4 –  Schedule realistically

Most organizations schedule meetings without transition time in between. So, your meeting ends at 2PM and your next meeting starts at … 2PM. That might work if all these meeting are in your office and you don’t have to use the restroom, stand up for a few minutes or check messages. Otherwise it is unrealistic. Schedule meetings that last 45 minutes then you have 15 minutes in between.

Tip 5 – No meetings on Thursday

One day without meetings. An office worker’s fantasy?

No, it isn’t.

It happens.

The company Edmunds.com with 700 employees introduced “Thinking Thursday.” One day without meetings. The company thinks that “Thinking Thursday” sparks productivity, creativity, and innovation.

Tip 6 – Manage the energy of the meeting

Most meetings have predictable roles and responsibilities like for time management. But what about energy management? If the energy of the room goes down – for example, because people need a break or someone is on their high horse – does the facilitator intervene? Or does the facilitator space out themselves?

Make it somebody’s role to watch the engagement level. Meetings in which attendees are not engaged, are not effective. Those meetings should end, right then, regardless of the original agenda. Evaluate why the meeting was, in effect, failing and reschedule.

Tip 7 – Stand-up

Bluedorn, Turban and Love researched the effect of standing versus sitting meetings. They found that sit-down meetings were 34% longer than stand-up meetings

So, next time when you meet, try it. Have a stand-up meeting.

And this week’s LeadershipBeyond challenge: what can you this week to spend less time in meetings or improve the quality of a meeting? Let me know what you’ve done. I love to hear from you.