Imagine for a moment if you could shape every minute of your life to work exactly as you wanted it to.
Well, you can’t. Not exactly. Sorry about that.
But you can actually control more of your daily schedule than you ever thought possible, creating more time to do the things you enjoy or at the very least spending less wasted time on pointless meetings.
“Free time you say? No pointless meetings? Woohoo! Sign me up!”
Well now, that’s the spirit!
The problem we tend to face with our calendars is that we let others control it for us.
Sometimes that’s necessary – like when a client or your boss insists on meeting right away at their offices. But often our calendars are left simply to fate and serendipity which sounds heavenly, but actually leads us to being unwitting slaves to a fairly random schedule.
To avoid all this, we want to take command of our calendars. We want to control where we’ll go, when we’ll devote time to meetings (versus other pursuits) and along the way make our meeting experiences as productive and enjoyable as possible.
** Our Self Conscious Disclaimer **
While we make lots of references to using a virtual assistant it’s not just because we want you to use our virtual assistants (although you totally should). Many of these tactics can be employed without the use of an assistant, or can be used with your existing soon-to-be-replaced-by-Zirtual assistant 😉 Changing your process is what’s important here – how you get it done is up to you.
-Setting a default time for all meetings
-Creating Flex Time windows
Have you ever wondered why all of your meetings seem to require exactly one hour to take place?
Is it the case that every meal you eat, every brainstorm you have, and every personal encounter happens to require the exact same 60 minute cycle to achieve your needs?
When is the last time someone asked you, “Hey Derek Zoolander, what is the shortest possible time we can meet to figure out whether we should be running paid ads in Google?”
Probably never. We live in a world where we take certain things about our time for granted, such as how long our interactions with other folks should take. This leads to us spending lots of wasted time on simply “showing up” at the expense of getting things done.
Now imagine if every time someone asked you to schedule a meeting your default suggestion was “OK I’ll book 15 minutes – unless you need more time?”
For some of us this may actually come across as rude, but before you dismiss the suggestion think about what it’s really asking (you can always modify the 15 minutes to be 30 minutes or some other increment you feel good about).
You’re asking how long it will take to actually get something done. A short meeting window forces action, not chatter. Knowing you are “on the clock” forces everyone in the room to act quickly and decisively, which in most cases is exactly what a meeting is supposed to do. Yes, this means Ted in Biz Dev will not be able to spend the first 20 minutes updating you on his golf game. Perhaps that’s a separate, highly focused meeting.
You’re giving yourself a quick “out” in case the meeting doesn’t make sense. Ever sit in an interview or first date and know within 5 minutes it’s not going to work? Why torture that interaction for 55 more minutes? If you schedule 15 minutes and go for 45 minutes you come across as highly accommodating. If you schedule 60 minutes and try to kill the meeting in 5 minutes you look like a jerk.
You’re asking someone to add the context of “importance.” What’s important to your meeting attendees might not be on the same level of importance as what is currently on your plate. You might be dealing with a house thats burning down, and your meeting attendees might just want to discuss getting a glass of water.
One of the wonderful things about having an assistant work as a proxy to you is that they can ask this question as a dutiful third party, avoiding some of the weirdness that comes with trying to keep a tight schedule yourself.
If your VA asks an interview candidate “Would a call for 15 minutes on Friday with Hansel be helpful?” it doesn’t sound off putting. It politely asks if that is the amount of time you’ll need to get things done. It also implies that you’ve got a tight schedule and you’re deliberate about managing your time, which most people don’t communicate very well.
Building upon the notion that you can always add more time to a meeting but you can’t reduce it (without sending a bad signal) you can always build “flex times” into your calendar.
Flex times simply suggest that the meeting is set for 15 minutes (or whatever duration you want) but you’ve allocated more time (30 minutes?) on your calendar so you’re not actually booked with a hard meeting time right behind your 15 minutes.
The beauty of your flex time is that you’ll always find a use for it. Instead of scheduling two interviews at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. respectively, schedule them at 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. and then another at 9:30 to 9;45. Use the time in between to catch up on important work if it goes unused (hint, it will) or to extend other meetings a bit if you need to.
To build a healthy relationship with your calendar, set boundaries and parameters before your next meeting gets scheduled.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.