I dread Wednesdays.

On that day of the week, I usually have between five and seven meetings. I basically spend the day hopping from one conference room to another.

Not so long ago, most of those meetings would last beyond 60 minutes. Tangents were pursued. Ideas were dissected in great detail. My team and I were often blind-sided by requests to come up with an entire marketing campaign for an idea we’d only learned of moments before. It was unproductive.

As a marketing manager responsible for proving the bottom-line benefits of your marketing, it can be tempting to rely on recurring team meetings and regular check-ins to make sure you know exactly what’s going on with your team. But when long meetings evolve into habit, their value tends to plummet.

No meeting should ever last beyond 60 minutes. There are a couple of reasons for this. After 60 minutes of intense discussion, participants begin to lose interest. Their creativity and energy wanes. And the more time you spend in meetings, the less time you and your team have to do ACTUAL work.

Obviously you can’t control every meeting. But when you’re running the agenda, you can create an atmosphere of productivity and creativity while setting an example of efficiency for the rest of the library staff.

I don’t remember how it started but someone in my library’s senior leadership team took the initiative to institute a more efficient meeting structure. Suddenly, everyone was following this person’s lead. It was amazing and liberating.

I started instituting the 60-minute or less meeting rule about a year ago in my department and it’s worked so well that I recently introduced it in another setting.

I’m the chair of my school district’s bond issue campaign and our core committee meetings are 60 minutes or less. It was funny how many people from that group have commented about my 60-minute meeting pledge! It had never occurred to them that meetings, even ones where important decisions are made, could last less than an hour.

If you want to increase productivity in your library, here’s how to execute a 60-minute meeting.

Super prioritize your agenda.  For my library team, I divide action items into categories: the weekly schedule, immediate concerns, future concerns, and individual tasks. These four categories appear on the agenda every single week. Under each category, I list the items that need to be discussed in order of their priority. Next to each item, I list the name of the person in charge of that item or project. For the bond issue committee meetings, I simply list items in order of their priority without categories.

Time it out ahead of time. Try to estimate how much time you’ll need to discuss each item. If your total discussion time is more than 60 minutes, do some more prioritizing with your agenda. Once your agenda is set, make sure everyone attending the meeting has a copy so they can follow along and stay focused.

Set expectations at the beginning of the meeting. As the leader, set the example and start on time. Remind the team that the meeting will last 60 minutes and that you’ll be working to keep discussions on track. Assure them that if further discussions are needed on a particular item, you will schedule a side meeting. Off-topic discussions will be tackled outside of the formal meeting time.

The first time I made this announcement at the bond issue meeting, everyone looked shocked. I was worried that people would start watching the clock and timing me, thus cutting the productivity. But because I set firm expectations, the group trusts me to stick to them. They end up focusing more on the items we need to discuss. It’s funny how that works!

Watch your agenda word choices. Use words like “update” rather than “discussion” to help frame the conversation and give mental cues to attendees that work for the meeting will need to be done before the meeting actually happens. If a key decision needs to be made in the meeting, use the word “decision” in your action item to cue the attendees that you plan to come to a consensus at this meeting.

Take notes. Make note of who is assigned to each project. Give clear deadlines and expectations for each action item and include those in the notes. After the meeting, send out a copy of the meeting notes so everyone is clear about what they’re responsible for and when it’s due.

Continue to give time updates throughout the meeting. It’s OK to say, “We have 15 minutes left so we’re going to discuss one more item that is a priority to us. The rest of the items on this agenda will be discussed at a later meeting.” This will help keep discussions on track.

The LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM is changing format. I have decided to pre-record my segments and post them to YouTube! I still want your email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form. If I pick your topic, I’ll send you a personal link to the video after it’s posted. I’m going to start posting my video segments on Thursdays so watch your email for that. Thank you to everyone who weighed in on the video decision!

And check out these upcoming events and webinars where we can connect and discuss library marketing. Registration links included.

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