In his quest to build the retail behemoth we know as Amazon, company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has sat in on thousands of meetings--and learned a few things along the way. That's why I'm always curious to hear insights Bezos has to share about the way he and his company hold meetings.

Well, in a recent interview with the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Bezos provided an interesting window into his thinking, namely, that he avoids afternoon meetings whenever discussing major issues.

"I like to do my high-IQ meetings before lunch," Bezos said. "Anything that's going to be really mentally challenging--that's a 10 o'clock meeting. Because by 5 p.m., I'm like, 'I can't think about that today. Let's try this again tomorrow at 10.'"

This "before lunch" meeting rule is not only brilliant, it's emotionally intelligent.

Think about it: Have you ever noticed how clearly you think after a good night's rest? Or how the longer you work, your productivity begins to sink?

Now, wait a sec, you say. What if I do my best work in the evening? 

That's great if you're doing creative or independent work. But meetings are all about teams and collaboration. So if you need to make decisions that require group thinking and discussion, you want your group to be at their best. And that 10 a.m. slot gives everyone the optimal chance to fully wake up and get the blood flowing.

Of course, it's not just about the scheduling. Bezos went on to explain three ways to make those high-IQ meetings count:

1. Get enough sleep.

Bezos says he prioritizes getting eight hours of sleep a night so he can be in the right frame of mind while at work.

"I think better, I have more energy, my mood is better--all these things [when I get the full eight hours]," Bezos explains. "And think about it: As a senior executive, what do you really get paid to do? You get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions. Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day. Is that really worth it if the quality of these decisions might be lower because you're tired or grouchy or any number of things?"

Research indicates that good sleep is vital for "brain plasticity," the brain's ability to learn and adapt. A good night's sleep also helps you concentrate better when you're awake, while reducing unforced errors and irritability. So, view getting enough sleep as a sound investment.

2. Feed your soul first.

Before Bezos even starts his workday, he takes time for himself and his family.

"I like to read the newspaper, I like to have coffee, I like to have breakfast with my kids before they go to school," says Bezos. "So, I have my puttering time--it's very important to me."

Of course, your circumstances may not allow you to take as much time as Bezos does in the mornings--but the point is to figure out what would help you, your body, and your mind. Is it a workout? Some time to reflect and meditate? Or, like Bezos, a good breakfast with your loved ones?

By feeding your soul first, you'll be prepared to do great work.

3. Identify your priorities.

Sometimes we confuse feeling productive with being productive. 

You might jump into your workday and knock out a bunch of small tasks. You might answer 20 emails or decide on a number of small matters that vary in importance.

Completing this type of work isn't wrong; it's often necessary. But these are tasks that can often be completed quickly, later in the day. This gives you time to focus your prime thinking time on the more important decisions.

"If I make three good decisions a day, that's enough," says Bezos. "And they should just be as high quality as I can make them."

The more responsibility you have, the more important focus becomes. So, identify your most important decisions for today, and make those your priority. 

So, there you have it. Want to have higher-quality meetings and make better decisions?

Be sure to:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Feed your soul
  • Identify your priorities
  • Schedule your high-IQ meetings for 10 a.m.

Do this, and you'll start to take control, make the most of your time, and completely transform the potential of your meetings.

Published on: Sep 17, 2018
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