Tired of dealing with meeting creep and people who don’t respect your time? Fight back.
Many of us make vows to improve our organization and clarity. You know the type: do more, procrastinate less, focus your time. But it’s hard to use time more wisely when someone else consumes it.
So far this year, I’ve been hit with a double-whammy of meeting creep. Instead of settling into 2014 feeling refreshed, I felt stressed. I’m done with it. You should be too.
Meeting creep: the inevitable inconvenience
The first major offense was a meeting organized at my workspace. How many times has something like this happened to you? Only a handful of the 20+ tenants had collected by the meeting’s start time. Two of the organizers rolled in at 10 after, only to begin passing around snacks. Ten minutes later, we began.
We adjourned 25 minutes after the meeting was supposed to end.
The second major offense was a call a colleague had scheduled. I offered a two-hour window on a certain day and received confirmation. I prepared talking points and adjusted my plans so I could be at my desk, prepared and relatively relaxed before the call.
The phone didn’t ring all afternoon. In fact, the phone didn’t ring until two days later.
Can you relate?
“Eighty percent of success is showing up”
It happens all the time. Appointments are set, then pushed back by 20 minutes, then 40, then an hour. Sometimes, it’s easy to shrug off. If you have your laptop, work can be completed in the downtime. But meeting creep is getting out of control.
My mother taught me that if I wasn’t 10 minutes early, I was already late. I’m the person who shows up for morning doctor appointments before they unlock the front door. The person who will take another lap around the block before walking into the bar so that maybe, for once, I’m not the first one there.
In the meantime, if I time my public transit journey for a gathering or appointment poorly, I’ll apologize by call or text about the possibility that I’ll be late. (Growing up on the 10-minutes-early rule leaves you with some guilt issues later in life.)
Maybe we wouldn’t be so breathlessly busy if we had more respect for not just our own time, but also for one another’s time. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Meeting creep backs up more than one person’s day. It leaves tasks unfinished and family meals delayed. It leaves otherwise organized people feeling rushed.
The ripple effect of meeting creep can throw off an entire week’s worth of productive work.
Rethink your commitments
Battling meeting creep requires two methods of attack. First, it requires a commitment to others. If you have a legitimate reason for lateness and know it’s going to happen, the burden is on you to notify the other party. Apologize profusely.
Once you arrive or call, skip the small talk. You owe it to the other party to stick to the agenda. After all, you have less time to cover the same amount of material. Better get down to business.
Second — and this is the bigger challenge — commit to yourself. You don’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate someone else’s needs if they blew you off in the first place. If a meeting drags over the time allotted, I dare you to stand up and gather your things. Then get on with your day.
As professionals in a freelance, solopreneur, entrepreneur, whateverpreneur world, it’s obvious that 9-to-5 schedules are a thing of the past. But you have places to be and commitments to keep. You don’t have to be 10 minutes early, but for all our sakes, stop being late.
Lisa Rowan is a writer and editor in Washington, D.C. She also owns a vintage clothing shop.