Contributor: Cameron HeroldIf you have ever watched an Olympic swimming event, you know there’s a pre-swim routine for athletes. They stand behind their starting blocks pumping themselves up with music blasting through their ear phones as they get into the zone, ready to compete. Then they strip down to their bathing suits, stretch a little, and take a few deep breaths. The announcer calls them to their places, and they get into their ready positions. Finally, the gun fires—on time—and splash! They hit the water and the race begins.
Now, if you’re a swimmer and you show up right on time—that is, when the gun fires—then you’re actually late. It’s true in meetings too. To be on time is to arrive five minutes early. For Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, if you weren’t fifteen minutes early, you were late.If you weren’t fifteen minutes early, you were late. Click To Tweet
Punctuality is not so much a virtue, which suggests it’s in some way above and beyond what’s required. Rather, it reflects a larger philosophy of showing respect. “Sorry, I’m late” translates in business as “I don’t respect you.”Punctuality is not so much a virtue, which suggests it’s in some way above and beyond what’s… Click To Tweet
Like the Olympic swimmer, it’s impossible to perform at a high level if you arrive when the gun goes off—that is, when the meeting starts. You can also glean a lot about a company simply by judging its level of promptness. For instance, how can you expect to deliver goods and services to your customers in a timely fashion if you can’t start a meeting on time?
Whatever the excuse, people show up late for one reason: they haven’t stopped what they were doing before soon enough.People show up late for one reason: they haven’t stopped working soon enough. Click To Tweet
There are some things that simply aren’t appropriate. You wouldn’t go to your grandmother’s house and use bad language; that’s not okay. Tardiness isn’t okay either. And it’s up to you as the leader to set the expectation that being on time means showing up five minutes early and being ready to go. It’s also up to you as an attendee to show your respect by sitting in your chair five minutes before the meeting starts.Being on time means showing up five minutes early and being ready to go. Click To Tweet
The best way to be early (read: on time) is to ensure your previous engagement doesn’t run late. You can accomplish this by adopting a mindset where you stop whatever you’re doing five minutes early. This gives you time to go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, say hi to your assistant, check emails, or grab a seat before the gun fires.
I also recommend carrying forward this concept of ending what you’re working on five minutes early when you’re in charge of a meeting. It’s a bit unusual, but ending the meeting five minutes early gives you and your team time to transition to the next meeting or activity.Ending a meeting 5 mins early gives u and your team time to transition to the next… Click To Tweet
Another way to make meetings more efficient is to consider Parkinson’s Law. The law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” With that in mind, it’s incumbent on us to find ways to compress time. One method is to reconsider the amount of time you initially expect you will need to achieve a task. Instead of booking a two-hour meeting, can you accomplish it in an hour with greater concentration?
“How long will it take to clean up your room?” and “How quickly can you clean up your room?” are two different questions that reflect different mindsets. The latter question compresses time and encourages you to achieve your task in less time than you think it would take. This approach and mindset are what we need to adopt when we organize meetings.
In general, meetings and obligations tend to fill the space you give them. Estimate how long you think a meeting or task will take, and then cut it in half. By limiting the time, you increase your productivity, maximize efficiency, and implement a more highly profitable system of time management.Estimate how long you think a meeting or task will take, and then cut it in half Click To Tweet
Other useful tools to increase your efficiency include eliminating idle chatter and putting time limits on tasks during a meeting. Instead of saying, “Everyone, write down your ideas,” and then waiting until they finish, say, “Everyone, you have two minutes to write down your ideas. Go.”
The day has come to elevate your meetings and maximize time, money, and resources, and to use meetings as a tool to take your business and your career to the next level.
We have work to do—let’s get started.
Cameron Herold is an international speaker and author of Meetings Suck and the best-selling book Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less, which is currently in its seventh printing. Find Herold on Twitter and LinkedIn.