Does the thought of being in a meeting spark joy?
Or does the mere mention of the idea tighten your heart with cold anticipation of misery?
Organizations across the United States collectively spend 15 percent of their time in meetings. That totals up to a price tag of $37 billion per year, a figure that doesn’t even include four additional hours per week that employees spend preparing for meetings.
And yet, despite all of this time and effort, meetings have a reputation for being a soul-crushing waste of time.
Our meetings, like our homes, have become disorganized and cluttered. This leads to people tuning out in meetings—and even skipping out entirely.
That’s why it’s time to apply the KonMari Method to our meeting agendas.
Before we decide what to keep about the way we run meetings at work, let’s first review Marie Kondo’s basic rules for tidying your home:
- Commit yourself to tidying up
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle
- Finish discarding first
- Tidy by category, not location
- Follow the right order
- Ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’
With a few tweaks, we can adapt these rules to tidy up how we meet at work. This will lead to not only more joy-filled, effective meetings—it provides a fantastic framework for lasting change in the workplace.
1. Commit yourself to meeting differently
Meetings are a thorny topic in many companies. Changing your meeting culture may seem hard. But remember, nobody likes ineffective meetings.
It’s time to take one for the team. Be a leader. Be a hero. You can do this. Others will thank you for it. Mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead.
2. Imagine what you will do with your new time
Now that you’re committed, you would rather start pruning your agendas right now, wouldn’t you? But Marie Kondo reminds us to clarify why we want to change.
Think about what kind of meetings you want to go to. Picture your team. Instead of drained and bored like usual, visualize them coming out of every meeting full of energy and enthusiasm for what happens next.
When you start with a vision of what you’re trying to achieve, this will also help you articulate why you’re doing this. You’ll need to communicate the why when getting others to buy into your new way of meeting.
3. Discard entire meetings first
With so many meetings and so many agendas, where do you start?
Well, start with entire meetings that are too long, too frequent, or simply not necessary at all. Thank them for their contributions, and let them go.
Do you need outside input to move forward? If not, then don’t have a meeting. Do the work.
Does making progress require a lengthy real-time conversation? If not, send an email or make a quick screen recording.
Do you really need an hour-long sync with every team once a week? Try making it 25-minutes by default, and only extend to an hour when it’s required.
4. Decide what participants to keep
Does everyone need to be there? Ask whether every person invited to the meeting is bringing something unique.
If your organization has a good culture around taking and sharing meeting minutes, chances are there are attendees who can skip the meeting and simply review the notes.
That includes whether YOU need to be there. Managers and executives are especially guilty of self-exploitation when it comes to overbooked schedules. If you’ve focused on informing and empowering your team, they may not need as much in-meeting guidance as you think.
5. Follow the right order: Change the agenda BEFORE the meeting
It may be tempting to go into a meeting with the intention of trying to change the agenda for that very same meeting. All of the relevant parties are already there. It just makes sense!
But this is a classic symptom of a major problem with meetings: failure to prepare properly. If you have to discuss what the agenda for the meeting should be—but you’re currently in said meeting—then you’ve already lost.
We’ll get to how to tidy your agenda in a second. For now, just remember that agendas need to be done in advance.
Other agenda-related activities to do before the meeting:
- Make sure dial-in info is listed, conference rooms are booked, etc
- Attach any relevant material that needs to be reviewed before the meeting
6. Ask yourself if the agenda item sparks joy (or decisions, or discussions)
It’s time to decide not what to discard, but what to keep. Keep only what aspects of the meeting actually make it effective and useful for its purpose.
Unlike when tidying your stuff, you won’t be able to hold your agenda items firmly in your hands. But if you type up your agenda, you can highlight the text with your mouse. That works almost as good.
Agendas should have the following:
A reason and objective for the meeting
If it is not implied in the agenda, state why the meeting is necessary and where you plan to get by the end of the meeting.
To transition into the meeting and make everyone comfortable, it’s best to begin with a reminder about who is there and what the meeting is about. (This may be implied and not need to be listed on every agenda.)
Put the important topics first. Limit the amount of topics to what is reasonable. Ted Talks, for example, have an 18-minute limit. This time frame is backed by science about how much information the human mind can accept at one time.
This is actually part of discussion topics. If you discuss something, usually you need to make a decision. Write down what needs to be decided. (e.g. Discuss CRM and decide whether to renew contract for another year.)
It’s a good practice to assign next steps, noting all of your decisions and who is responsible for taking them forward. On most agendas, this section will be blank, and can be filled in during the meeting as things happen.
What you’ll notice isn’t in the list above is updates. Yes, updates, especially brief ones, do belong in some meetings. However, if the update isn’t accompanied by a discussion or decision, sometimes it is better left to a different channel of communication—such as information shared before the meeting.
There you have it. Just as the KonMari Method can transform your home, it can transform your work as well.
By tidying up the meetings on your calendar, you and your team are ready to take a streamlined approach to meetings, and chances are, you’re going to get hours back for other work along the way.