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A Simple Method For Insanely Productive Meetings

by | Collaboration

This is a guest post by my friend Chad R. Allen. He spurs dynamic conversations about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at

We’ve all been there.

You show up to a meeting and it takes 15-20 minutes to get the necessary technology up and running.

Or the agenda is unclear, so everybody’s spinning their wheels.

Or you don’t understand your role within the meeting.

Or the goals of the meeting are fuzzy.

While meetings can go bad in an endless variety of ways, one thing is common to all bad meetings: they’re a colossal waste of time. Sadly, if a typical month includes a number of meetings, this wasted time amounts to a massive chunk of our lives!

We need a solution.

Having participated in my fair share of meetings over the years, I have developed a simple practice that has had a profound impact on the productivity of meetings in which I participate.

The Principle

Here’s the principle on which the practice is founded: Your Participation Starts Before the Meeting Does.

A major reason meetings are unproductive is the unspoken assumption that unless you’re leading the meeting, you do not need to prepare for it.

That’s where we go wrong. Any experienced house painter will tell you, “It’s all about the prep work,” and I tend to think the same is true for meetings.

But not just any prep work. The 2-step process below will supercharge your preparation time so you’re ready to go when the meeting clock starts ticking.

The 2-Step Practice

Step 1: For every meeting on the calendar, schedule a 15-minute block of prep time.

I try to do this at the beginning of every month and the beginning of every week—during my monthly and quarterly checkpoints, to reference The Accidental Creative.

I schedule this prep time just like I schedule everything else. It is a commitment I make to myself and others that is on the calendar. What gets scheduled gets done.

Some meetings require more prep time, of course, but typically these meetings are not the problem. The problematic meetings are those that are on the calendar, that are going to happen, but for which I have no plan of action.

At this point you might object. “But I don’t have 15 minutes to prep for every meeting.” My experience is that when I prep, I get more than 15 minutes back because the meeting ends before it is scheduled to end. Sometimes I don’t, but at least the meeting time is not wasted time.

Step 2: During your prep time ask, “How can I add value to this meeting?”

I’ve found this to be a rich, stimulating question because it quickly focuses my attention where it needs to be. Sometimes this question has prompted me to invite someone else to the meeting or to suggest cancelling it so a larger group can get together later in the month.

Other times this question has led me to spend ten minutes brainstorming solutions to a problem. When I show up to the meeting, people are impressed that I have some ideas to share.

Other times I’ve made a mental note to show up to the meeting early so I can fire up my laptop and have it connected to the screen before the meeting begins.

Without fail this question has led to meetings that are far more effective than they would be otherwise.

I hope you’ll give it a try. If you do, I’d love to hear how it works out for you.

What practices do you use to increase the productivity of your meetings?

Chad Allen

Chad Allen

Chad R. Allen spurs dynamic conversations about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at, where you can pick up a free copy of his first book Do Your Art: A Manifesto on Rejecting Apathy to Bring Your Best to the World. A book-publishing veteran, Allen loves to help authors and others cultivate creativity and share their messages in innovative, exciting ways.

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  1. Blake Mankin

    Great thoughts. One thing I’d add is to consider not just what you’d like to present, but what discussion you’d like to inspire. Sometimes it’s the right questions, not the right answers, that add the most value.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Hear hear, Blake! And that’s a GREAT question! Thank you!!

  2. Cheryl Malandrinos

    Excellent post, Chad. Our president sets an agenda for each meeting. She asks ahead of time if anyone has anything to put on that agenda, so that gives us a chance to prepare ahead of time.

    Our main obstacle to productivity is staying on one topic too long. I think if we set a plan for 10 minutes on each topic, that might work better. What do you think?

    • Chad R. Allen


      Yes, we’ve experimented with this too. Meetings do have a habit of expanding to fit the allotted time, so one idea is to cut the meeting at the outset. Also, I’m a big fan of thinking in 15-minute increments for meetings. Why meet for an hour when 45 minutes will do just fine? Why meet for a half hour when 15 minutes will make us more efficient? Thanks for commenting!

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