Meetings That Don’t Suck: Timekeeper

Meetings That Don’t Suck: Timekeeper

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Meetings That Don’t Suck: Timekeeper

Timekeepers are the missing link?

We are obsessed with time. Simon Garfield does a great job outlining our time obsession here. And we spend a ridiculous amount of time in meetings that are not only unproductive but downright disengaging. It's estimated as a manager you spend between 35-50% of your time in meetings. That's a lot of time, often unproductive.

How many of those meetings just run on-and-on? Too many. In this article I'm going to give you a quick tip that will make your teams meetings shorter and more productive.

I've spent a fair amount of time in meetings as a consultant and as a leader and most of those meetings were a waste of time. It's a mission of mine to help you lead meetings that are productive and engaging. One quick trick that has helped many of my clients is the introduction of a timekeeper.

Managers you spend between 35-50% of your time in meetings! Shouldn't that time be more productive?

Challenge & Promise

Here’s the Challenge: over the next 4 posts you will receive 4 meeting hacks that will help you to lead meetings that don’t suck. After this short series, you will have the tools you need to lead your teams meetings in a way that is more effective and engaging and will, most importantly, get results.


Why do professional sports engage timekeepers? Think about it, you can't name a professional sport that doesn't have one. Timekeepers

  • provide structure,
  • provide accountability,
  • provide a voice of reason,
  • provide an end point.

Which is why I recommend adding this role to all of your meetings from this point forward. When you are running the meeting it is easy for you to lose track of the time. The timekeeper's job is to make sure that someone is paying attention to the clock by keeping track of meeting minutes.

Let's be honest everyone is already paying attention to the clock, thinking about all of the work they aren't doing sitting in another meeting. The timekeeper makes sure the meeting stays on schedule.

Comment below if you already use a timekeeper and how it works in your meetings. It's been my experience that most team meetings (and virtual meetings) happen without a timekeeper. This is a mistake. By adding a timekeeper to your meetings you:

  • can stick to a 1 hour meeting window,
  • can tame endless talkers,
  • ensure that the meeting agenda items are addressed,
  • ensure that the time doesn't slip away without touching on important items

Are timekeepers are the key to regaining control in your meetings?

Have a conversation prior to the meeting

It's best to ask someone ahead of the meeting to play this role. When selecting who will play your timekeeper, let him know that this is his mission should he choose to accept it. Be specific, show him how you want him to interrupt the conversation. Let him know that his is the Robin to your Batman.

You need him to keep the meeting rolling and that you need him to actually interrupt the meeting at the specified intervals. The person you choose to fill this role should be comfortable with the attention and interrupting.

Let him know that you will tell him when to start the clock. He might ask you as well when as he sees the meeting progressing.

Encourage their interruptions

Share that she needs to bring their cellphone and use the alarm and make it loud. This way before she has to say anything the phone has already done the heavy lifting. When the alarm goes off all she really has to do is look at you and say that's all the time we have alloted for that topic.

Remember she is Robin and you are Batman. You are leading the meeting. If you want to extend the discussion time you can, but understand that you are taking time away from another topic that you might have to table later. This meeting will be competed in 60 minutes. When you get to the end of the meeting, stop it.

Why not do it yourself?

A few reasons. As I mentioned earlier, running the meeting is going to consume your full attention and make it easy for you to let agenda items run over and therefore the meeting to run over. Another reason is you want to engage the rest of the team in making sure the meeting is moving smoothly and staying on time and on topic. When you enlist a timekeeper, you are delegating and empowering someone to help you run this meeting.

Announce the new position

As the meeting begins introduce the team member who will be the timekeeper. Let the team know what role she is playing and how she will keep us on schedule. Inform your team that she will be interrupting at specific intervals and this is primarily to make the meetings more a productive use of everyone's time.

What ideas do you have around making meetings not suck? Drop your comment below and don't forget to share this post if you got something out of it.

Until next time,

Make today count!

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

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