I work with a COO of a commodities company--we'll call her Felisa (I'm changing any identifying information to protect client confidentiality).

Felisa spent most days in back-to-back, hour-long meetings starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Every day, by about the third meeting, Felisa was running late, breaking a common suggestion for making meetings useful.

According to Atlassian, employees attend 62 meetings a month on average. This means you're spending at least a third of your work week in meetings.

In my experience coaching executives, most hour-long meetings start up to 15 minutes late. This delay costs attendees an average 45 minutes a day in lost productivity.

Felisa and I realized the biggest reason her meetings started late was because either Felisa herself or several other attendees were coming from a previous meeting that ran behind.

With back-to-back meetings, Felisa and others with similar schedules couldn't be on time for a second or third meeting if the previous meeting ran the full time. This meant starting late and ending late, creating a domino effect of wasted time.

Worse still, each hour-long meeting really had only about 45 minutes of usable time, which was enough. Felisa and I developed an easy, two-step strategy to save time in meetings. Try it, and see how shorter meetings times can result in more productive meetings:

  1. Meet for 45 minutes instead of an hour. Since the actual work of most hour-long meetings can be completed in 45 minutes, use the extra 15 minutes to transition from one meeting to the next and start each meeting on time.
  2. Start meetings at quarter past the hour. A meeting that starts at 2:15, for example, gives attendees coming from a meeting that ended at 2:00 time to arrive on time. When others apply this strategy, you'll defeat the domino effect.

After Felisa ran 45-minute meetings that started at quarter past the hour for two months, several of her peers adopted this practice as standard meeting protocol. They used the time saved to work on larger projects, making substantive progress and delivering results sooner.

Use your extra 45 minutes a day--almost four extra hours a week on average--to create a vision, spend time on tasks that will most impact your goals, or catch up on your to-do list during the work week instead of sacrificing evenings and weekends.

Shaving unproductive time from meetings puts a valuable resource back where it belongs - under your control.

It's your time. Use it to be great.

Published on: Sep 20, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.