Tools for your Founder Toolbox: The Meeting Filter
You don't have enough time to be super thoughtful about every meeting you'll take so be ruthless with your time (when there's no potential asymmetric upside).
Here’s how to not waste your time as a Founder when you need to meet with a bunch of people.
1. Ask yourself or your counterparty why this meeting matters (politely).
2. Ask what the next idea that follows from this one is or the next action this meeting should facilitate is.
3. Make the decision to dive deeper if needed or move on to your next meeting. Keep going or wrap up gracefully.
This is a short idea, but powerful.
Recognize that as a Founder you have infinite work, but finite time.
You need to make many decisions about many things in too short of an amount of time to really be thoughtful about most of the things you’re deciding. You’re going to be wrong some percentage of the time and that’s unavoidable. Many of these decisions require a meeting to talk through them so you can have enough context about them to be thoughtful arbitrator. At some point (sooner than you think), you’ll probably end up in meetings that you don’t understand the point of or remember why you’re having them. That’s normal and a critical part of being close to your business.
To achieve the optimal hit rate on your decision-making you need to find a balance between speed and accuracy of decision-making. That’s where the Meeting Filter helps.
When a meeting starts, mentally classify whether it’s a meeting you’re the decision authority for (meaning it’s not like a BD call with a potential client, it’s you meeting internally with your team to decide something about some initiative or project). If it’s external, then do whatever you normally do and close the deal.
If it’s internal, then get yourself oriented. Work with your counterparty to distill the real goal behind the meeting. Does a budget need approval? Do you just need to be made aware about an unexpected bug? Do you need to pick a typeface or something minor? Extract that “Decide” or “Inform” essence as fast as possible.
Then once it’s extracted, think to the next step.
Once you know essence and what the next step is, you’re basically ready to do the thing the meeting was supposed to accomplish. Do it.
This is all you’re going to accomplish without another meeting anyway (and only this if you’re lucky!). Commit to a time for the next thing that needs a decision point as fast as you can as well. Don’t commit to a meeting to get informed about something if you can help it. Those can almost always be emails.
Now decide whether it’s truly necessary to keep exploring the ideas you’re discussing. If nothing actionable will come of it, end the meeting and take a breath. If you will be able to make another decision with another 15 minutes of exploration, then keep going.
Boom. All your meeting times have been reduced by like 20%. That adds up quick.
I hope this added value to your day.
Follow me on Twitter (@frozenfire42) for more ways to talk less to other people.
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