Discover how a $5 iPhone app is helping to combat the $37bn cost of unproductive meetings every year
MeeTime iOS app helps corporate employees get out of meeting hell
Staffordshire, UK – Jul 15, 2017 – Employees are wasting up to 2 years of their lives[ii] sitting in useless meetings and no wonder as three-quarters of people have never received any formal training on how to conduct a meeting[iii]. MeeTime was conceived as a simple way to help people run meetings more effectively. It is founded on the premise that you cannot control time, only decide what you want to do within it. It starts automatically and helps keep your meetings on track. MeeTime is already being used by employees in big organisations including Goldman Sachs, Rolls Royce, Nielsen, Hewlett Packard, DXC and Molson Coors, among others.
The advice to ‘start on time, stay on time, stick to the agenda and end on time’ is always in the top 5 ways to make meetings better[iv], but as Yogi Berra says, “in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” And staying on time is easier said than done. Especially if you are the one running the meeting, trying to keep time and taking notes. When things inevitably go awry, it can be an impossible mental arithmetic task to work out how to get back on track.
Gavin Jones, Founder and Managing Director said, “It is interesting to see people when they are in an internal corporate meeting. Everyone hates them, yet most are just resigned to the fact that they haveto be there. It seems like no one is linking the fact that if they take control and leave this meeting early, they can get home to their kids, go to the gym, work on their side hustle or, in fact, anything that they complain they do not have time for.” Jones used the time he saved in meetings to create MeeTime as a side hustle from his corporate job and wanted to help people remove their excuses to do the same.
MeeTime will start when the meeting is supposed to start. If you are behind, guess what? You're behind. However, MeeTime will help keep you on track with beautiful visuals showing how much time is left and who is on point for each section of the meeting. Plus, it is easier than ever to finish a meeting on time with MeeTime. Should things not go to plan, the “Auto time remaining” setting automatically apportions over/under-runs across the remainder of the agenda.
“This is a great, great idea and it has massive potential. I truly believe that this has got great potential to help a large number of people!” ~ Chris Bateman, Global Senior Manager, World Class Supply Chain, Molson Coors Europe.
“I think the visual aesthetics alone make it far easier to keep pace during a meeting instead of watching a clock. Great start for a new app!” ~ Carlye King, Project Manager, Revenue Management & Optimization, Nielsen.
"This is an awesome idea! I love this,” said Richmond Nash, Productivity Coach. “It is indispensable to have an app that breaks down the agenda of a meeting by each point and the time frame for each! I'm in a lot of meetings and this is going to be a go to app!!”
“Does exactly what it says on the tin. The interface during the meeting itself is easy to understand and has all the info that you need. I liked the congratulations summary, I could see how much time I’d saved for myself and others and it’s allowed me to talk of the benefits of meeting with me – we always achieve our objectives within the time allocated!” ~ Paul Rowe, Commercial Enterprise PMO Business Partner, Molson Coors International.
About MeeTime Ltd.
MeeTime Ltd. was founded in Feb 2016 by Gavin Jones. MeeTime was started to help people make better use of their time and started with a simple question, “what would you do with an extra hour per day?” The launch of MeeTime Ltd’s first app is to help corporate workers run meetings that stay on time and get people out of meeting hell.
Jones conceived of the idea whilst he had a job setting up a new integrated business planning process for senior executives and realising that it is hard for even the top level of management to run meetings effectively. He wanted the app for himself at the time and found that there was nothing on the market that does exactly what is needed, so he decided to create one for himself.
As Jones was in a full-time job he used tips from the 4-hour work week, Think and Grow Rich and The Miracle Morning, to free up time to outsource design and development to different time zones to allow him to project manage the business before and after his day-job.
Whilst MeeTime has been in development Jones lost his grandma and father, after a long battle with cancer, and his wife is due with their first child in August. All of which could have been excuses not to carry on but he wanted to start-up his own business to be a role model for his kids. “ I wanted to show them, not just tell them, that having multiple streams of income is not only smart but necessary as the economy and business world changes around us,” Jones said.
If only 2 or 3 people are meeting, it is not a meeting. You are just scheduling time for a chat. No need to go overboard with prep, but it might help if the person knows why you want to talk to them first - unless you just want to build a relationship. 1-on-1 should be used for building relationships, for feedback, for any difficult conversations or actions that you parked from a bigger meeting. If it were up to me, all meetings would be this kind. This is where the real work happens. This or a workshop, but the most successful workshops start with a few 2-3 people meetings anyhow.
If 4 or more people are meeting, you have yourself a proper meeting and you should sign-post it as such with an agenda. How strict you need to be on the agenda depends on which of the four types of meetings you are running:
“Doing the doing” when this happens to need a diverse group of people to make it happen. Make sure everyone there is needed and knows what they are talking about. “Hangers-on” can severely disrupt the flow and creativity of the rest. Cut people ruthlessly and manage with a smaller number than required. You can always take your findings to people outside the core group afterwards if needed. This kind of work usually benefits from large amounts of unstructured time, like a half or full day. You may want to break it down into a couple of chunks to make sure you are making progress, but don’t go overboard on the timings. Go with the flow.
Cancel this meeting if the person needing a decision has not shared why the decision is needed, the options and estimated consequences of each option, and their recommendation. If you are the person needing the decision, make sure you have spoken to the key people beforehand. Like House of Cards, never call a vote unless you are sure you are going to win. You need to know who is on-side or not so you can prep everyone else. This kind of meeting, when done well is just acting out what everyone already knows. Time it ruthlessly. Allow some time to go through each option (as anyone you have not spoken to will never have read a pre-read), some time for discussion, and then push for a decision when the time is up. If you can’t get the meeting to a decision, then you either have a bunch of people that use “more info” as an excuse or you have not done enough prep to show that a decision is really required and that it is needed now.
Relationship building / development on scale:
For example, team meetings or anything where the main aim is to get people working together. This is fine. Introduce some structure and timing to keep things on track, but be upfront that the point of this is to work together better or give people the safe space for development e.g. running a team meeting or presenting.
People not being aware of which type of meeting they are in. It can be okay to break a bigger meeting into parts that may cross the four types but avoid it where possible. The biggest source of frustration for attendees is confusion over what sort of meeting they were in. For example, you don’t want lots of discussion at a deliverables update; You don’t want people pushing to record actions in the middle of a workshop; You don’t want people trying to solve the world in a cascade; And you don’t want people telling their life story in a decision meeting.
Similarly, no one likes a time-Nazi if the group is just about to get the result they are after and someone cuts them off for the sake of a couple of minutes. Let it run over and then readjust. The key is to be able to do this quickly and have structured your meeting so you can run over. E.g. don’t ask for a decision right at the end when everyone needs to leave for another meeting. The decision should be made 10mins before the end. Buffer it with AOB if needed.
You can do all this with a clock, but seeing the time tick down and communicating this will increase the effectiveness of your meetings massively. Having the ability to proportion delays across the rest of your agenda instantly, so you always have a plan to finish on time is something your co-workers will be eternally grateful for. Okay maybe not, but they might buy you a coffee. MeeTime does all these things and for less than the price of a clock. Google Ventures uses a time timer at $25-£50 dollars. For a tenth of the price, you can have something more sophisticated always available in your pocket. Shameless plug over. Get MeeTime.
Why do meetings start on the hour? And last an hour? Because someone at Microsoft made the calendar default that way when Office was ubiquitous and no one has ever changed it.
The problem is that other people's meetings finish on the hour. You cannot be in the meeting room at the exact time that someone else finishes. So, there is a very high chance that you are going to start late. Others have back-to-back meetings all day even if you are conscientious enough to avoid them.
Why not start at 2mins past, 5mins past or 10mins past? People might actually turn up early thinking it starts on the hour. You might actually be set up to start on time.
Similarly, why finish on the hour. Knowing that your colleagues do not have the time management skills that you do, help them out by finishing at 5mins or 10mins to the hour so they can get to their next meeting. Anything you need an hour for can be done in 30-45mins anyway.
Give someone the gift of time. Make your meetings that ones that start and finish on time. Schedule.
Three’s a crowd,
Four, or more, is either a shit-storm or a successful meeting. And you get to decide which.
Less than four people do not need much structure. It is more of a chat. Once you get to four or more, that's when time stretches.
Cut. Prepare. Run. Repeat.
Cut the number of attendees. Everyone does not need a say. Be bold. Someone will be upset whatever decision is made.
Prepare the agenda and make sure everyone else has prepared.
Run the meeting to time. Be mindful that this is not the work. The meeting is organising the work. Get back to work as soon as possible.
Repeat. As infrequently as possible.
PowerPoint decks are only useful for the unprepared to communicate with the disinterested.
Anyone who knows what they're talking about does not need an aid. And anyone interested in listening needs the speaker to come alive, not the slides.
People are always saying to me that they have no time. No time to do what's important. To do things that will get them promoted. To do things to develop themselves. To read a book. To spend time with family.
Looking around, no one, and I mean no one, can run a meeting . Not even the top of your organisation. Does this sound familiar, waiting for a senior to come into a lower level meeting and they are always late? This has a cascading effect throughout the organisation and it shows others that this is acceptable. When others get promoted, they also stack their meetings back-to-back and are proud that they are late for everything because they are so important and so busy.
No one is thinking like Tim Ferriss' quote: "Busyness is a form of laziness. Lazy thinking and indiscriminate action" 80% of senior managers are just busy and it cripples organisations.
It stems from the "being in the office" culture. It does not matter what you do, as no one knows what anyone else does in a large organisation anyway. It only matters what you are seen to be doing.
It does not matter that two senior managers who can't use excel spend until midnight filling out a new tracker by hand, not using formulas and calculating things on their phone and typing it in. It does not matter that someone else could have done what took them 6 hours of work in 10minutes. They are lauded for burning the midnight oil, for going the extra mile.
So, no one is thinking about meetings because it is an easy way to stay in the office longer. Yet, for people that are truly busy (they cannot get the work done which is needed to keep the organisation running, even if working all waking hours), they must prioritise. And they the easiest thing to cut is meetings.
Don't go to them. Leave after your part (hardly anyone does this, because meetings are a jolly, especially off site ones). Or actually pay attention and move them along, even when you are not the leader.
Running meetings is hard. It should not be left to chance. Like being mindful of your time is hard if you do not focus on it consistently.
In part one, we said how to think about your meeting and decide what you want to get out of it. In part two is similar as we consider splitting this down.
Write an agenda. Decide what you want to get out of each agenda item and estimate how long it will take.
Each agenda item should start with a verb, preferably "decide". If you are just reviewing finances then read them at your leisure and set up a slack group for questions.
If you are tempted to write “discuss”, then think about splitting out a few people beforehand to align. Or include a follow up agenda item to “decide”. Preferably, just have one agenda item to “decide” as everyone knows this will involve some discussion, but no one is left uncertain of what is needed when the time for that agenda item runs out.
When estimating how long you need, think about other meetings and the personalities you have in the meeting. Do you have all the options? Have you counted the votes? Review what happened last time and adjust.
There will always be people that say they need more time, more information or more resources. If you have prepared correctly push for the decision.
As soon as you have decided, you can move onto the next agenda item. If you have not decided by the time run out? You are out of time…
Time is relative and absolute. Time is finite yet most people carry on as if it can last forever.
What if today was the last day you could see your parents? What if you kept putting off seeing them because it was an extra half hour on your commute? What if you got out of two meetings 15mins early?
Everyone agrees that family comes first, yet rarely is this seen in work. There is no urgency to get something agreed, decided, put to bed. The scourge of being visible in the office cripples productivity and consistently places the urgent above the important.
Even top execs are one pay check away from being broke. Learn how to spend your time and your money or you will quickly lose both.
Why not do this every day? What would you do with an extra hour per day? You can easily get an hour back from your unproductive meetings.
“Have you ever had a crazy busy day, worked your tail off, raced against the clock, and then, against all odds, finished early? That extra hour or two of life that you reclaim is an absolute gift—a bonus that makes you feel like the world is on your side. You hit the gym and go for a run, head out for cocktails with friends, or race home to tuck the little ones into bed”
~ Tony Robbins, Money Master The Game
It is easier than ever for anyone to schedule a meeting so it is more important than ever that you do it right. Organisations are being crippled by poorly run meetings because no one is taking the time to prepare anymore.
What do you want to get out of the meeting? Write that down. Put it in the subject of the meeting invite.
It should start with a verb, preferably "decide". If it starts with "discuss", then cancel the meeting immediately. Better to spend your time canvassing opinions one on one until you know enough to propose some options and make a clear decision.
Imagine receiving a meeting invite that read “Decide what products we are offering to Walmart next quarter.” Or another that read “Strategy catch up.”
You know when one of these ends, after the decision is made. When does the other one end? Likely never.
Sharpen your axe.
Like this? Read Part II