Eliminate The “30, 60 And 90” Tradition To Increase Productivity, Sanity And Time


Eric McDermott is the founder of NēXTpectations. Helping enterprise teams align to what’s next. Follow on LinkedIn.

I’m not a fan of defaulting to “the way things have always been done” when I can’t find a good reason for it. No matter your industry, business or career, there’s a tradition that has quietly become a time thief, source of stress and productivity killer.

I’m talking about your calendar, and more specifically about 30, 60 and 90. Those “magic” numbers of minutes seem to be the default duration for virtually every meeting and appointment. I get it. They slot so neatly into our days, so why not? You might even see a day with many back-to-back meetings like this and marvel at how productive it looks. You might even stack a day and dub yourself a “productivity warrior,” when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you ask me, the numbers 30, 60 and 90 may actually be some of the biggest things getting in the way of maximizing productivity on your teams and your personal schedule. Let me make my case using two categories:

• The Visible Stuff: These are the things like our appointments (meetings, phone calls, etc.). The stuff that typically nestles right into our calendar in one of those 30-, 60- or 90-minute meetings.

• The Invisible Stuff: These are the things that creep up, pop out and sneak into our day. These are critical tasks like returning calls, capturing commitments, following up, preparing for the next meeting, getting to the next meeting, getting coffee, grabbing a snack or, goodness forbid, running to the restroom. Albeit critical, they are rarely afforded a visible spot in our schedules. Instead, we’re just left to hope we find the time for them to magically get done.

These invisible tasks can seem so quick. We might think we’ll get to them later, but do we? We can’t fit them into the fractional seconds of grace before our next appointment. Presuming we remember, do we wait until the end of the day and work late? Or do you become “that person” who shows up late to the next appointment with a really dramatic reason why you’re late?

So how does all of that relate to 30-, 60- and 90-minute appointments and meetings? We typically stack these appointments back-to-back. And there’s literally no time for the invisible stuff. Why do we do this? We’re humans, not time travelers!

I propose a simple change that will yield a huge impact:

• Change 30-minute meetings to 25 minutes, plus a 5-minute break.

• Change 60-minute meetings to 45 minutes, plus a 15-minute break

• Change 90-minute meetings to 75 minutes, plus a 15-minute break.

With this seemingly small change, you’ll be able to watch as you keep the same number of appointments in your day but now have the time for all the invisible stuff!

I confess that it’s not a completely new idea. Supposedly folks in Silicon Valley, for instance, have been trying variations of this for some time. Yet for some reason, it hasn’t caught on with the masses.

Inertia for tradition may be strong. You may find resistance if you try and implement it into your own teams. (I certainly did.) But once you do it, the results can be amazing. At your next meeting, ask people how they like it when meetings go straight from one to another. Spoiler alert, no one likes it. Then, you propose the solution to fix it!

Let’s stop trying to be “productivity warriors” pretending to get it all done, running around with our hair on fire, distracted and perpetually behind. Instead, let’s simply be productively human. I know that may not have the same catchy ring to it, but it can yield a far more productive and fulfilling day.


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