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How to Have Better Meetings, as Told by The Walking Dead

When you open your Google Calendar to an array of back-to-back, pastel-hued blocks taking over your day, do you die a little inside? Meetings. They’re a necessary part of your day, but one that, if left unchecked, can spread faster than walkers invading Alexandria (RIP Carl’s eye). You can’t escape meetings, so how do you transform the way you approach them so they’re actually productive and less of a last-minute surprise?

We covered the broad strokes here, but we’re taking a deeper dive into how to be productive in meetings below. Because when $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings each year, and 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, that’s an epidemic worth addressing. So where do you start?

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Learn to Say “No”

Do you need to be in every meeting you’re invited to? Google is famous for running efficient meetings and showing the world how to be productive. They have a rule that no more than eight people should be in any one meeting. If there are more than eight attendees, Google believes the quality of conversation decreases.

Ever arrive to a meeting, armed with pencil, paper, and your thinking cap, only to realize too late that, like Rick’s crew arriving in Terminus, you shouldn’t be there?

Another area where Google fosters healthy meeting habits is in their attendance policy. If you get to a meeting and there is no agenda, no one in charge, or no reason you should be there, you’re free to excuse yourself.

Obviously, you need your company or executives to be on board with this policy, but wouldn’t it be great to, say, find yourself cornered by season two’s resident philosopher Dale, and simply be able to politely excuse yourself from the farm (and the entirety of season 2, for that matter)?

MINTO the Cause of Your Meeting

Don’t be the collective people of Alexandria. You want to be the Rick squad of any meeting you attend: prepared, practiced, and preferably wearing leather. This is especially true if you are the meeting organizer.

Before you call a meeting, MINTO your goals. “What is MINTO” you ask? Well it’s a Carl-sized pain in the ass, at first.

Once you get through it a few times, however, MINTO will save you time and confusion on any project or meeting you apply it to moving forward. Put simply, MINTO is a framework for defining the Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer to the problem you’re trying to solve.

Let’s break it down with a problem we’re all familiar with. Carol.

Situation: Carol has had a rough time of it since the end of the world. Carol isn’t happy living in Alexandria or “The Kingdom” (because WTF).

Complication: Her recent excursions have proven that Carol can’t live on the road by herself. As much as she’s working at it, when the ninth person has had to save her, she realizes it’s time to stop trying to make self-imposed exile happen.

Question: Can Carol maintain her independence without being a sitting duck on the road?

Answer: (These answers are simply proposed, and give you something to debate/discuss in the meeting) Yes! Carol can move into a picture-perfect, post-apocalyptic dream home within a tiger’s walk of “The Kingdom,” and enjoy solitude and safety (at least for an episode or two).

By defining the Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer of what you’re trying to solve for in the meeting, you’ll have a better understanding of what you want to accomplish.

Employ the RASCI Framework

Once you’ve identified what your issue and proposed solutions are, you might still find yourself confused about who needs to be included on your meeting invite. That confusion often leads to inviting too many people, just to cover your bases.

This is where the RASCI framework comes to the rescue. RASCI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consulted, and Informed. Let’s put it to use in Carol’s unique situation:

Responsible: Carol is responsible for relocating herself to the new location.

Accountable: In this scenario, Carol is probably also the “Accountable.” It’s up to her whether she leaves, how she gets there, and who helps her. It’s also up to her to make sure the whole thing happens.

Support: Morgan fits the bill of the “Support” here, making sure Carol arrives to her new home safely.

Consulted: This probably belongs to King Ezekiel, who advises Carol to “leave, but don’t leave,” which, while seemingly unhelpful advice, gives her the idea to set up shop in a nearby home.

Informed: Morgan and Ezekiel are probably the only people who need to know about Carol’s life outside the walls. If there is some arrangement for her to receive a lifetime supply of pomegranates or other assistance from The Kingdom, those responsible would probably need to be looped in as well.

By deciding who the Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, and Informed parties of your issue are, you’ll know how to designate ownership within your meeting.

Create an Agenda

Even 15-minute meetings should have an agenda. They help you organize your thoughts and set a firm outline for what you will accomplish in your meeting, along with how long that meeting should take.

For this, let’s harken back to the youthful, Negan-free days of season 6 (what lambs we were!) when Rick goes full on Rick and creates a plan to distract the quarry walkers from Alexandria by luring them to the gas station. He lays out a clear agenda and shares it with his group before they jump into action. For the reasons of this blog post, let’s not focus on the fact that eventually this plan goes completely to south.

Once you’ve created your walker-proof agenda, make sure you share it with attendees at least 24 hours before your meeting takes place. Some companies even have a “no agenda, no meeting” rule. This ensures that the meeting organizer is making the most of each attendee’s time and setting firm expectations for how that time will be spent. It also demonstrates that you’ve thought through why this meeting is necessary and what your goals are.

Meeting wrap-ups are of equal importance. Someone in your meeting should agree to take notes and disseminate them afterwards. Before you leave any meeting, you should discuss next steps, and define who is responsible for those steps (another area where RASCI comes in handy). It’s a good idea to reinforce those next steps with a wrap-up email or Slack message that can be shared after you disperse.

Change Your Default Meeting Times

The default meeting time on most Google and Outlook calendars is 30 minutes, but because we are the masters of our own lives — and calendars — we can change that default setting to 15 minutes in a snap. Why 15? The answer, of course, is in a TED talk.

TED keeps each of their talks at 18 minutes or shorter. Scientifically, 18 minutes is within the amount of time that most people can pay attention before checking out. And if there’s one thing you want meeting attendees to be, it’s alert and attentive.

This time constraint also helps TED speakers to reign in and organize their thoughts. By setting shorter default meetings, it encourages participants to be prepared, organized, and efficient. And don’t be afraid to adjust those times further to 10, 20, or 40 minute blocks. Your calendar is your domain!

Want more great tips on how to be productive and make the most of your time? We’re launching a Productivity eCourse next week, packed with interviews with the creative leads from Dollar Shave Club, Havenly, FINIS, and Colorscience.