Day 36. Come Together, Right Now. Virtually

Why running 15-minute power meetings twice a week is the best decision we made as a remote team and how sticking to this increased our individual productivity rates by over 100 percent.

How many apps do you have open right now?

How many new messages do you have that are unread?
How many of those new messages are actually urgent?
How many of those new messages do not require a reply other than an emoji?
How many desktop notifications popped up during the last 30 seconds?
If you are a freelancer or a consultant who needs to justify hours spent on any given task, it makes me cringe to think about how people actually spend time in meetings. With the number of free software apps in the market today, there is a reason why most people end up more tired and frazzled than necessary.

My team agreed to standardize our work process using at most:
  • two instant messaging tools  
  • one project management tool
  • one centralized repository
Whatever new ‘hot’ tool we want to learn to use or specialize in falls under the category of ‘nice to learn because…’ If the interest fizzles out after a few days of learning how to navigate the free version, we shelve the idea for good until someone in the team steps up and re-opens the discussion about making it ‘standard’. When we do this, we agree to make a clear case and defend it using a 15-minute pitch. At the end of the day, our collaboration is more efficient when we have a fixed set of tools in our toolkit that we all agree to use diligently and meticulously.
If you are like me and my team who are conscious of how much time we spend on tasks, you will probably fall out of your chair if you knew for sure that there are teams who spend approximately 30-40 hours a month in meetings alone. That is practically a third of their actual office hours in a month!
Imagine this:

Average $___ per hour x ___ hours per week x 4 weeks a month = X (then, multiply by how many people were in the meeting)
5 Reasons why our team does not believe in long meetings (or meetings that take longer than 20 minutes)
1. Strengths and Competencies
We are a small team of 5 people, 20 including our power-freelancer community. Each of us possesses a unique set of experiences and lines of expertise. We treat each other as Consultants. We dedicate time in continuously learning and developing our current skill set. This is a discipline that we share and observe. Acknowledging our individual strengths and competencies is how we add value to our team and our company.
2. Interdependence and Accountability
We all work better ‘alone’ within a collaborative community that is willing and open to help as needed. We are progress-based and goal-driven. We do not hold each other accountable for perfection. We work towards continuous improvement and pursue excellence.
3. Respect for Others
Respect for each other’s resources, time and energy. We make an effort to be mindful of what we are asking people to do for us. We value each other in this way because we see the value of being the best version of ourselves at work.
4. Creativity and Resourcefulness
Before we consult each other, we spend time doing our own homework.
Rules of thumb ‘Do Not Call For a Meeting unless…:
  • you have a clear agenda of what you need to accomplish in the meeting
  • you can summarize what you need, why you need it, what options and resources you have already considered, in 15 minutes or less.
  • you are willing to (in principle) justify the hours spent by your teammate in helping you do your job.
  • the person you are inviting is critical to accomplishing a task or deciding on a solution to a problem.
We can still be helpful. Outside of these rules, everything else can be done by email or a working document. We make it a habit to check emails 2-3 times a day: before we start our workday, after lunch and 15 minutes before clocking out. Private social media is a self-imposed restriction and is a non-issue since we manage social media campaigns for clients.
5. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
We define our needs and we are aware of our limitations. Being proactive in evaluating what we can and cannot do helps us simplify our work processes and reach our goals faster.
If you do need to call for a meeting, here are tips on how to run 15-minute power meetings
1. Set a fixed date and time.
2. Set an agenda in advance.
3. Prepare your notes (keep your time under 15 minutes). These include: 
  • progress updates on your owned tasks vs milestones
  • discussion or action points
  • key people in the team you need a follow-up discussion with before closing the meeting
4. Summarize what people need from you and what you need from people. (2 mins)
5. Remind people of next meeting schedule (30 seconds)
Following these simple steps allowed us room to focus on our respective tasks and complete on or before our set deadlines. We have more time to review our work so it does not require a second pass as much as possible.
Now, reimagine this:
Average $___ per hour x ___ hours per week x 4 weeks a month = X (then, multiply by how many people were in the meeting)
How did you do? How much money did you use wisely?
Having too many options does not necessarily guarantee effective communication or efficient collaboration in a virtual team environment. 
Running lengthy and pointless meetings is like trying to figure out the meaning of this hit song by the Beatles, ‘Come Together‘ when the song is really about nothing in particular but you know it has a definitive beat you can hum or dance to for years.
Keeping it simple has kept us focused on what is important. Why don’t you try this and see what new tunes you can come up with? Share your thoughts and comments below. We’d love to hear about your WFH Virtual Meetings experiences!