Try Tuesday afternoon – or maybe not having a meeting at all.
Struggling to get your employees together for meetings? Try suggesting 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, says a study by online scheduling service When Is Good.
Why are people most receptive and willing to accept Tuesday midafternoon invites? "People seem to think they can't leave it much later than 3 p.m. because time might run out," says research coordinator Keith Harris. "They start clock watching. The most important factor, though, is probably preparation time – if you have a meeting at 9 a.m., employees will need to prepare the day before, or turn up underprepared." (If you're thinking of arranging a meeting for 9 a.m. on a Monday, only one in three employees is likely to attend, the company found.)
Another way to get people to meetings: Try the Swiss trains approach. Set very specific times and durations for meetings, such as 10:12 a.m. to 10:26 a.m. "Such specificity might bring people in on time and keep things moving on a tight schedule, leaving no time for the dreaded 'any other business,'" says Philip Delves Broughton, author of "What They Teach You At Harvard Business School." He suggests then breaking the meeting down into even smaller blocks – 90 seconds on this, five minutes on that – so nothing gets missed "and people understand they cannot gas on," he says.
Or go for the Quaker approach: Start a meeting in silence and invite anyone who has something to say to break it. (Wondering how well this can work? The list of Quaker-built companies includes Cadbury and Strawbridge and Clothier, now owned by Macy's.)
There is, of course, the radical question of whether you need a meeting at all. Ricardo Semler, a Brazilian industrialist and author of "The Seven Day Weekend," suggests not requiring anyone to turn up to meetings. If you call one and people come, the meeting is worthwhile. If no one comes, you learn it was a waste of time in the first place.
Wondering just how much time and money you waste on meetings? Check out Meet or Die, where you can enter your industry, the length of your meeting, and the number of participants and their jobs. The website estimates the money spent and suggests a cause where it could be better spent, plus a link to donate that wasted money. For, say, a half-hour meeting of six writers and an editor at a company the size of Inc., the $189 spent could give clean drinking water to 9 people in Africa for 20 years, or "significantly impact" relief efforts in Haiti. Then again, we might need a meeting to decide where to donate.
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.