This One Rule Could Make Your Meetings Way More Productive

how to make meetings productive

Pexels/Christina Morillo

It’s Monday morning. Your outfit is on point, you saved money on your Starbucks latte and you feel more than ready to tackle the day ahead like the boss you are because you made your to-do list the night before. (Yasss.)

You sit down at your desk and open your email, only to see your inbox light up with three new messages. You’ve been invited to a few more meetings, bringing the total to five for today. There’s the product meeting, the editorial meeting, the sales meeting, the marketing meeting and then a one-on-one with your manager. If you’re asking yourself how you’re supposed to get any actual work done, you’re not alone.

Meetings are a real time suck. Research shows that some people spend up to 23 hours in meetings per week, and that’s not counting any of the impromptu side convos. The bigger problem? Meetings are still often necessary to get teams aligned on projects, which makes eliminating them downright difficult.

So how can you make meetings more productive?

Invite only the number of people you’d be able to feed with two pizzas.

how to make meetings productive

Reshot/B I R D

When scheduling a meeting, create the invite list with intent. Only include people who absolutely need to be there, and keep it as small as possible. Jeff Bezos calls this his “two-pizza team rule.” (Actual pizzas optional.)

So what does that magic number look like? Robert Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, studied research from late Harvard professor J. Richard Hackman and psychologist George Miller and found that seven people (plus or minus two) is perfect. When groups are larger than that, the quality of the conversation can decrease — and no one wants to sit in a meeting with 12 other people and feel as though nothing was accomplished.

If you’re not the one scheduling the meeting, talk to the person who is and suggest this “pizza” rule, plus these other easy-to-implement tactics that can make meetings more productive:

  1. Include a five-minute buffer at the beginning and end of all meetings. How many times have you had back-to-back meetings with zero time to use the bathroom, get a drink of water or answer a Slack message? These small windows of time allow for all of that (and probably more).
  2. Ask someone to keep track of time. Prevent the start of yet another meeting when one runs over by asking someone to watch the clock so you can stay on schedule.
  3. Provide an agenda beforehand… and stick to it. Agendas may sound formal and stuffy, but they can help make meetings more productive by keeping everyone focused on the tasks that need to be completed during that time.
  4. Go tech-free. Prevent multitasking and keep everyone laser-focused on the meeting by asking attendees to leave computers and cell phones behind at their desks.


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