Alas, the one-hour meeting

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.—Dave Barry

What would you do differently if meetings could only be 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 90 minutes, or all day? No hour-long meetings!

How many times have you really started to get into the thick of an idea only to find the allocated meeting time has expired? Or realized after only a few minutes that the subject doesn’t require an hour but you keep at it because that’s the time allocated?

It’s unfortunate that our calendar programs insist on booking one-hour blocks. Some meetings only need to be 20 minutes; others need to be two or three hours. But we tend to comply with our calendar programs and book everything for one hour.

Some meetings are too long

Status meetings and check-ins should be short. Really short! A popular idea today is the “stand-up” meeting. The goal of this meeting is to identify what various team members are doing and ensure that they’re not working in conflict. Make sure they’re not working on the same projects or using the same resources. Make sure no one is preventing someone else from moving forward.

Don’t let these become general status meetings—once everybody has their 3-5 minutes you’ve lost a whole hour! That’s why meeting gurus recommend an egg-timer for stand-ups. Keep it brief and move on!

Some meetings are too short

Problem-solving meetings should be long. These meetings explore an idea, solicit different approaches, and build to a consistent understanding with an action plan. They tend to need more than an hour.

Meetings that need to be longer include assessments, retrospectives, and planning meetings.


When it comes to meetings, one size doesn’t fit all issues. Don’t let your calendar interfere with doing the job!

What’s your advice or favorite story about meetings?

For more on meetings, read Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni.