15 Minutes Is The Ideal Meeting Length

15 Minutes Is the Ideal Meeting Length

A meeting that drones on and on is hardly productive. Keeping a meeting to 15 minutes is ideal for the same reason that TED talks are maxed out at 18 minutes: attention span and memory.

Photo by David Wall

You might be thinking that 15 minutes is way too short for a meeting, but Kevan Lee at Fast Company explains a couple of reasons why it's perfect:

  1. First, work expands to the time you schedule for it. If you schedule a two hour meeting, you're likely to fill that two hours and waste valuable work time.
  2. Second, 15 minutes is more than enough time if the meeting has a purpose, tasks are made and assigned, and you keep computers and phones out of the meeting room.

The best reason for a 15-minute meeting, however, is because of our attention spans and brain limits. Carmine Gallo, a professional coach and trainer, wrote on Linkedin about the reason TED talks are only allowed to be 18 minutes long:

As the brain takes in new information and is forced to process it, millions of neurons are firing at once, burning energy and leading to fatigue and exhaustion. Researchers at Texas Christian University are finding that the act of listening can be as equally draining as thinking hard about a subject. Dr. Paul King calls it "cognitive backlog." Like weights, he says, the more information we are asked to take in, the heavier and heavier it gets. Eventually, we drop it all, failing to remember anything we've been told. In King's own research, he found that graduate students recall more of the information they learn when they go to class three days a week for 50 minutes instead of one day a week for three hours. Although most students say they'd prefer to get the class over with at once, they retain more information when receiving the information in shorter amounts of time.

Not every meeting may be able to be done in 15 minutes, but for the general day to day stuff there's no reason to be wasting away for hours while nothing is accomplished. If you need a little help, try setting a 15-minute timer and when it goes off, meeting is done.

The Science Behind TED's 18-Minute Rule [Linkedin via Fast Company]


    15 minutes?!!?
    I need to sit you down with my boss so you can explain this lol, i think i average 15 working hours a week in just meeetings, but they seem small considering the hours i work

      @cesario - I hope you're being rewarded for it, there's more to life than just work.

      But I agree - You can't say "15 minutes is the ideal time for a meeting" without knowing what the meeting is for. I'd like to see their suggested agenda for a board meeting of a multinational corporation, that adequately covers their risk management and corporate governance requirements - all of which fits into 15 minutes.

      Conversely, I'm a huge fan of Tim Ferriss's view of meetings - the ideal length of time for a meeting is zero minutes. Most meetings could have far more efficiently been dealt with via email. 15 minutes is 15 minutes too long for ANY meeting that doesn't have a defined agenda and outcomes.

    15 minutes for a meeting is fine, so long as the subject can be covered off in 15 minutes.

    The reason TED talks can be restricted like this, is because it isn't a meeting, or even a dialog, it's a speech.

    When you have multiple people discussing a topic, putting an artificial restriction on how long you should discuss that topic for does more harm than good. Some topics need more than 15 minutes to properly discuss, some will vary greatly depending on the input of the assembled team.

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