One on one meeting: How to make them effective

Seemingly innocent, 1:1s are disrupting your productivity.

Everyone struggles to schedule their one-on-ones, and it doesn’t get any easier as your team grows. Finding the perfect time for both sides of the meeting is a battle, but keeping to your one-on-one's on a regular basis is an important part of building a team.

Often, we fall into the trap of scheduling a one-on-one on a new hire’s first week, which works initially but turns into disruptive, poorly-timed events in the future. For managers, those ‘quick’ meetings end up sprinkled through the week, leaving no time to get any actual work done.

There are better ways to schedule those one-on-ones, which helps make keeping to them less of a burden. Here are a few of our favorite ways to get the most out of yours and wrestle your Focus Time back.

The value of one-on-ones

Regular meetings between managers and employees can help keep employees feeling confident and offer a great place for constructive feedback. This a great opportunity to give team members effective feedback to ensure nothing in their performance review comes as a surprise. It's also a great place for performance management on an ongoing basis. Regular check-ins also boost employee engagement for better employee performance over the long term. That's a lot of value for 30 minutes per week!

The key to an effective one-on-one is to encourage workers to feel comfortable setting the meeting agendas, bringing talking points, and bringing up agenda items and action items. As a manager you should always be ready to ask open-ended questions if your report doesn't have a lot to discuss and actively listen to their thoughts. To get started, there are plenty of one-on-one agenda templates online to help you get started.

Knowing how valuable these meetings are, here's how to schedule them so they're less disruptive.

Stack 1:1’s

Left alone, one-on-one's quickly disrupt every day of the week, but for managers, doing all of them in a single day reduces mode switching and helps get more done.

When you’re doing thirty-minute sessions at sporadic times, the impact of disruption on your productivity — and that of your team members — goes beyond the meeting. Studies say that it takes an average of 23 minutes to return to productivity, so fragmenting meetings over many days can suck up hours in mode-switching alone.

By stacking your team catch-ups into a single day or afternoon, you can reduce the time you lose through mode-switching over the space of the week. Stacked 1:1s allow managers to work through each one with the right mindset, taking notes in-between, and reducing the cost of switching tasks.

This method only directly considers a manager’s calendar but helps keep one-on-ones as a regular habit, just by getting them done all at once.

The manual clean-up

If you’re able to find the time to plan for the week ahead, another great way to keep on top of things is taking a moment to look at your calendar every Sunday night or Monday morning and arranging events for the best possible time.

This usually means stacking all of your meetings on a single day to get more done, or ensuring that they’re only occurring during allocated ‘meeting’ times when they’re least likely to disrupt your focused work time. Some managers choose to allocate mornings to meetings and afternoons to other work, while others find it easier to get into their focused time first-thing in the morning.

Cleaning your calendar in this way takes proactive attention on a regular basis, and schedules tend to change every week, so you’re not addressing the problem of those sneaky calendar changes during the middle of the week.

But, actively arranging your days ahead of time makes it easier to reject disruptive meetings and more mindful of your time. This is time-consuming and requires commitment— while only addressing your side of the scheduling.

Make them flexible

The pipe-dream for managers is to get their calendar on autopilot, optimizing for minimal disruption on both sides.

Clockwise’s flexible meetings feature can help with that. It moves your one-on-ones around in the calendar dynamically, accounting for how disruptive the meeting is for both sides. By looking at both calendars, it’s able to choose the best time for both sides without ending upright in the middle of the afternoon.

For those with highly-focused jobs requiring ‘deep work,’ this can help your employees immensely. Reducing fragmentation of attention and allowing your team to stay in the ‘zone’ without interruption helps them get more done. Managers benefit, too, by finding more time to truly get into focus time at their desk, and work through their other tasks.

Clockwise moves flexible meetings to a slot that will reduce context switching and avoids placing them in your optimal focused work time. We're always checking to make sure the meeting isn’t interrupting your ‘Focus Time,’ moving it to the next-best slot if either side is double-booked.

Your 1:1s might fall in a different time-slot every week, but are always placed at the best moment for both sides without manual calendar shuffling. It’s meeting bliss, without the hassle.

You can learn more about flexible meetings and how this setting can help organize your schedule here.

Find Focus Time

Taking control is the key

The most important thing you can do for your own workday is taking control of how calendar events and ‘meeting madness’ before it’s too late. Paying attention to your own focus times, scheduling meetings in blocks, or even making them flexible can help.

We believe the key to effective 1:1’s is keeping to them on a regular basis, so your team knows there’s a safe place to talk to you. Taking control of when they’re scheduled makes this much easier if you start today!

Read next: Time management apps for teams.

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