THE BLOG
01/26/2015 02:52 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2015

The One Change That Changes Everything for the Better

© JLM Photography via Getty Images

Here at Stop Meeting Like This, we have adopted a new practice when we meet with each other or with clients. Meetings are scheduled for 20, 45, or 75 minute increments.

Meetings only start at the top of the hour or at half-past. The result: 10 - 15 minutes of whitespace between each meeting.

We've been at it for three weeks, and it's already having a surprisingly positive impact. Here's what we've noticed so far:

  1. The meetings are better. Simply the act of choosing not to default to the usual meeting time wakes everyone up and makes them more intentional about the content of the meeting itself. We're getting the same or better results in less time.
  2. Our thinking is better. A colleague and I are conducting a series of interviews to prepare for a large, upcoming meeting. Because they are 20 minutes instead of 30, we have 10 minutes between each one. We use that time to talk about what we heard and reach thoughtful conclusions. Our insights are fresher, richer, and less subject to the recency effect.
  3. Our judgment is better. We now have the space to consistently practice Robyn Scott's powerful 30-second habit of noting the essential outcomes of any conversation. (It you missed her post, read it here.) In doing so, we're honing in on what matters most, making our choices and decisions better.
  4. Our momentum is better. We often use the whitespace after a meeting to send a quick email to recap the take-aways, decisions, and actions from our last meeting. This keeps everyone on the same page and sets up the team for better follow-through and consistent forward progress. Added bonus: this practice eliminates future meetings that occur purely because everyone forgot what happened...
  5. Our responsiveness is better. During one of these mini-breaks, I noticed a complex and confusing email from someone I don't know well. Rather than type an elaborate response, I picked up the phone and called her. She answered and within 5 minutes, we were all sorted out. The net result: a long email chain was avoided and a relationship was strengthened.
  6. Our participation is better. Because we know we will have these breaks, we don't feel anxious during meetings, wondering how we can survive the morning without one more cup of tea. The anticipation of a break allows us to fully engage and avoid the seductive trap of multi-tasking.
  7. Our energy is better. We are big fans of The Energy Project and their well-researched conclusions that small "recovery rituals" can sustain high performance over long periods. We use our windows of whitespace to step outside for some fresh air, stretch, etc. We're noticing that even just 5 minutes of downtime between meetings keeps us fresh and able to bring our best to whatever is next!

If your day is one big endless meeting, give this a try. Better yet, have your whole team adopt the practice and notice what happens. We think it's what Charles Duhigg calls a keystone habit and it can change a lot. We'll await your results in the comments section.