Executive Insights

Here are 5 hacks for shaving down your company's meeting time, from a startup that whittled theirs down to just 4 hours a week

Business Insider US
Hugo cofounders Josh Lowy (right) and Darren Chait (left) stick to a strict 10% rule when it comes to company meetings.
  • Hugo is a San Francisco startup that produces connected meeting notes software.
  • Hugo published its book "10X Culture" in October about how innovative companies can focus on the process behind their culture to unleash teamwork and success.
  • One tip in the book involves instituting the "4-hour meeting week," in which an employee should have no more than four hours' worth of meetings per week - in other words, at most 10% of their 40-hour work week should be spent in meetings.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

If your work calendar regularly looks like a single dense block of meetings, you may not be using your time at the office efficiently.

Hugo, a San Francisco startup that produces connected meeting notes software, says your workweek should be composed of four hours of meetings per week at most.

Hugo published its book "10X Culture" in October about how innovative companies can focus on the process behind their culture to unleash teamwork and success. "10X Culture" includes a chapter on the concept of "the 4-hour meeting week."

The startup manages to employ this 4-hour meeting week strategy itself, even though its business is all about meetings, and even while having employees across time zones in San Francisco, Washington state, and Brazil.

The logic behind the 4-hour meeting week is that copious, long meetings do not ensure progress, and an organisation can move faster when it isn't bogging down its talent with endless meetings.

Here are five ways to implement the 4-hour meeting week, as chronicled in "10X Culture," which was written by Hugo's product marketing and education lead, Rob Lennon, along with cofounders Josh Lowy and Darren Chait.

1. Share updates in advance digitally — then, meet only if necessary.

Hugo says that one-fifth of the agendas generated using its meeting notes software have the word "update" in them.

Lennon explains that updates can be a waste of precious meeting time. Updates can be delivered succinctly, in advance, through a few written bullet points.

Furthermore, Lennon suggests that a speaker faces a dilemma when presenting their update: If the update is short, albeit succinct, it risks sounding like the work they have done is insignificant. As a result, the speaker may include more, unnecessary detail in their verbal update to ensure that their progress sounds significant, thereby unnecessarily prolonging a meeting.

The solution: "Have everyone share three bullet points and read each other's notes. Only have a meeting if that surfaces anything to discuss."

2. Make a quick video to share instead of meeting.

Sometimes, you simply have to relay complex or sensitive information verbally. But when every verbal exchange becomes a scheduled meeting, you're at risk for quickly surpassing the allotted four hours per week.

Lennon suggests making a video when you have something short to share that you would otherwise say in a meeting. This way, you say what you need to aloud, but the people receiving the information can absorb and respond to it at their own pace. Lennon points out that this strategy is particularly helpful when trying to meet with employees across different offices and time zones.

The solution: "If you think the discussion will be less than fifteen minutes, just make a quick video instead."

3. Skip the meeting entirely if you're a manager — get notes instead.

Diana Walker / Contour by Getty Images

Managers often attend meetings where they are not vitally needed just to stay in the loop.

"It's not that you're a necessary presenter; you're just worried that you might miss an important detail," Lennon writes.

To ameliorate this concern, and to stop wasting time in an endless block of meetings, Lennon suggests enacting a plan for someone in attendance to always write "excellent, high-level meeting notes consistently delivered" to the manager and stored in a centralised, digital location.

The solution: "Skip the meeting, and ask for notes instead."

4. Stay standing — it incentivises a shorter meeting.

Kimberly White/Getty Images

A "stand-up" is a short meeting - so short that you take it standing. Lennon points out that anyone remote tuning in virtually inadvertently turns a stand-up into a sit-down, perhaps to accommodate for a video-conference or phone call. So, keep those meetings standing so they stay short, even if remote workers are tuning in.

The solution: "The point of calling it a stand-up is that you get tired if it goes on too long. So stay standing."

5. Converse in short spurts, as opposed to blocking off meeting time.

David Ryder/Getty Images

"By not blocking off an arbitrary thirty minutes, the discussion gets done in exactly the time required," Lennon writes. He recommends simply setting up meetings as-needed, for only the amount of time you need.

The solution: "By encouraging everyone to work in a more ad hoc manner, meeting times are compressed to the minimum time required."

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