It’s time for 5 minute default meetings

This is the time to win our time back.

Wasn’t that first couple of weeks of remote work exciting? Boy howdy we all learned a lot and discovered things they thought were impossible are actually possible.

But one thing has already become way too possible. The ability to act like a time vampire from your colleagues even when you’re not in a shared office. Just as we escaped the clutches of Cheryl knocking on a cubicle divider and immediately launching into a speech whether you were busy or not, the video conference is being used as a way to fill our calendars with back to back meetings all over again.

Video calls are great. A boon for remote work. They’ve proven how connected we can remain when we can’t share a physical space. But seriously, do we need so many of them? To bastardise the old adage:

“That Zoom meeting should have been an email.”

But there’s a perfect answer that the Googles, Microsofts, Zooms and Apples of the world could help solve forevermore. Kill the 30 minute default meeting and crush that default down to 5.

Right now, we aren’t walking from a desk to a conference room. We’re not commuting. We’re not rushing back from some client face to face. We’re all right here, at our desks, trying to get things done. And we can get check-ins done without a lot of the built in waiting time and preamble and wasted moments and just get down to business.

5 minutes. We call, we see each other, we say hi. We check-in about the specific thing that needs checking in on, we say goodbye, we get back to business. We can be enthusiastic about a 5 minute check-in.

By making 5 minutes the default, we put the onus on the person calling the meeting to have a specific reason for extending that time window to something bigger. It becomes an active choice that requires explanation, not the default marker of how much time everyone has the right to steal from the team they work with.

And by making 5 minutes the default, we demand that people show up on time! Running late? You missed it. Meeting is over. Tell your boss what was more important than that sharp 5 minutes of team time.

When we sharpen the time we let people take, we remind each other what our time is worth. A lot.

That’s the discovery most people should be uncovering during our enforced remote work time right now. We can get more focused work done, and focused time is a blessing to deep work and deep productivity. Meetings should be a sacred time to deal with roadblocks that are slowing down the work that gets done when we aren’t in meetings.

A lot of software lets you change the defaults. We can technically make this change ourselves. But like the chrono-thieves they are, the people who love calling too many meetings are never going to change without systemic change.

Our new world order under the book of Zoom is yet another newer format that only lets you define meetings in half hour blocks. No! Enough! Of all things, video should be the sharpest tool in the drawer.

Google. Microsoft. Apple. Zoom. All the rest of you out there doing calendars. The coronavirus crisis is the perfect time to give us our time back. Reset the defaults. 5 minutes at a time. It’s good for today, it’s great for tomorrow.

About Author

Seamus runs Byteside. You may also have spotted his words at the Australian Financial Review, the ABC, Junkee, Gamespot, The Esports Observer, CNET, Gizmodo and a few other spots over the years. He's very happy that he gets to nerd out for a living.

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