The Secret to Productive Meetings: A Timeboxing Method

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We have all run or attended a meeting that was too long, boring, and unproductive.

This usually leads to frustration, resentment, disengagement, and people secretly texting under the table.

To add insult to injury, we are often invited back to the continuation of the meeting the following week, with the expectation of collaboration and teamwork.

It is no wonder that such meetings are often seen as a waste of time and resources, and it is easy to understand why people dread the prospect of having to attend such an event.

Apart from condensing meeting agendas, making the least important person leave the room, and retiring to-do lists, there are more secrets keeping meetings on track and creating an atmosphere of productivity.

But sometimes, the simplest solution is the best. Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of the search engine giant, uses an incredibly uncomplicated solution to the age-old problem of meeting creep.

Google Ventures Found the Secret to Productive Meetings in a 1st Grade Classroom

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Jake Knapp, a former design partner at Google Ventures and the author of (Design) Sprint, uses a $25 device called the Time Timer to help him stay on track during meetings.
It has been used since 2000 in elementary schools to help kids with autism and ADHD stay on task.

It’s an 8-inch version of an old-school oven timer, with large black numbers and a red disc showing the remaining time. Knapp first spotted it in his son’s first-grade classroom and thought it could also help CEOs.

Then, he used the idea of a ticking clock in meetings to design Google Ventures’ boot camps for startups and found it made a huge difference. Knapp said the clock “makes time visible and tangible,” changing how people think about time passing.

You can see the roots to the invention of the Time Timer that connects back to 1st-grade classroom etiquette.

Now that you learned that businesses like Google prefer meetings with time-oriented goal tracking, let us show you what timeboxing really is and how it works.

What is the Timeboxing Method?

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Whenever you want to make the most of a specific amount of time and stay on track with a specific task or activity, you should use the timeboxing method.

It is a time management strategy that is followed by breaking down the workshop into smaller, more manageable chunks of time, ensuring that tasks are completed promptly.

The timeboxing method helps to keep discussions focused and ensures that all important topics are covered within the allotted time frame.

With the right timeboxing strategy, you can increase the quality and productivity of your workshops while also keeping them on track and on time.

Note that timeboxing should be used as a guide rather than a strict rule and should be adapted to the flow of the meeting, allowing for some flexibility.

How Timeboxing can Help You Achieve More in a Meeting?

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Let me first explain how “Timeboxing” exactly works.

In meetings or workshops, the discussion topics and activities are allocated with a fixed time. Mostly, timeboxing is used by agile principles-based project management approaches.

It is highly recommended to incorporate the use of a Time Timer when managing time, as this will provide a clear visual representation of how much time has been spent on a task and how much is left.

Don’t worry! The Time Timer is incredibly easy to use:

1. Bring it to your meeting.
2. Place it in a visible spot.
3. Set the duration of the meeting, or a single topic.
4. Observe the remaining time gradually decrease.
5. And that’s it! Instant urgency.

It’s worth noting that the Time Timer is an affordable tool, costing around $25. Not bad, right?

The time limit can be adjusted based on the complexity and type of topic, but it should be communicated and agreed upon by all participants before the meeting or workshop exercise starts.

To make it more clear, here’s an example:

In a workshop exercise to brainstorm new product ideas, you could use timeboxing to allocate 30 minutes for each group to develop and present their ideas.

However, the entire workshop comprises several exercises and presentations and takes 1.5 hours in total. First, we’ll do a brainstorming session for 30 minutes. Then, we’ll present what we came up with for another 30 minutes. Lastly, we’ll vote on the best idea for the last 30 minutes.

So for each and every exercise, you would set the Time Timer to 30 minutes. As easy as that!

Timeboxing can help create a sense of urgency and focus, encouraging participants to work efficiently and make the most of the time available.

Breaking down tasks into manageable blocks, allows workshop participants to focus on the task at hand without getting overwhelmed. In addition, it allows participants to take regular breaks, which helps to refresh their minds and keep participants focused.

Did you know that successful entrepreneurs already use a Time Timer?

Successful entrepreneurs and businessmen like Elon Musk, Jake Knapp, Brenden Mulligan, and Mike Salguero use timeboxing to plan their busy schedules and meetings.

By putting the work in order, they get things done efficiently.

Is Time Timer Really a Good Tool to Use?

People from various fields like teachers, students, project managers, trainers, etc. can use a Time Timer in their daily work to stay focused and on track.

But talking in the light of experienced people here.

When a 60-min visual timer is placed in a room where attendees are performing their tasks, here’s what business people have to say about it.

Brenden Mulligan, a photo-sharing app cluster, says that he prefers using Time Timer over smartphone stopwatches because of the concreteness they provide.

Tina Chen, Product Designer at Medium, says that everyone stays on track and produces a ton of ideas.

Mike Salguero, SEO of CustomMade ventures, says that he uses Time Timer to complete his daily business tasks including confining e-mails.

However, not everyone is a fan of using a Time Timer for their tasks.

Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, believes that using Time Timer in meetings and workshops create a sense of pressure and stress that doesn’t allow attendees and participants to complete their task effectively.

What works for one person may not work well for another. The same is the case with Time Timer.

The effectiveness of the Time Timer, as a time management aid, depends on the individual’s preferences and needs.

When we talk about “no one-size-fits-all”, it can also be taken in terms of Time Timer.

Some people find the visual representation of time remaining helpful, while others prefer traditional timers or other time-management methods.

Conclusion: More Workshops – With Time Timer!

By “more workshops”, I mean to say that I prefer conducting workshops over meetings because of the productivity and the desired outcomes.

I strive to practice a simple mantra in my daily work: instead of having meetings, throw workshops.

Workshops typically focus on learning, problem-solving, and skill-building. They often involve interactive activities, group discussions, and hands-on exercises to help participants gain new skills or knowledge.

A facilitator or expert in the field usually leads the workshop, which has a specific agenda and objectives.

Meetings are typically focused on making fewer decisions, sharing just information, or discussing specific topics. They may include presentations, updates, and discussions, but they are less interactive than workshops.

To sum it up, the Timeboxing method is an effective and efficient way to manage any workshop (or meeting).

It provides a clear structure and framework for the work to be done, helps to keep the workshop on schedule, and minimizes the risk of scope creep.

Whether you’re looking for a successful innovation workshop or product launch meeting, implementing this method will make them more productive and efficient, leading to better results.

Get in Touch

We provide tailored timeboxed workshops and innovation strategies to help businesses identify problems, develop solutions, and improve overall performance while remaining cost-effective and enabling sustainable growth.

We will work closely with you to identify the best approach for success and sustainable growth.

Do you have any questions about the workshops we offer? If you think we can help your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out.