Years ago, my wonderful friend Christelle told me about her “expiry date plan” which still makes me laugh today when I think about it. She and her husband lived at the coast and her mother-in-law liked to visit them. The thing is, Christelle didn’t really get on with said mother-in-law. And mother-in-law liked to visit for extended periods of time!
So, Christelle developed her “expiry date plan”. Each time mother-in-law called to ask if she could come and visit “for a few weeks”, Christelle would negotiate with her husband (isn’t most marriages built on negotiation?). She would agree to mother-in-law visiting but would make clear to her husband that her hospitality would probably expire after ten to fourteen days. In this way, her husband knew her hospitality “expiry date” and could communicate this (in a diplomatic way) to his mother. Christelle’s expiry date plan worked brilliantly – she was happy, her husband was happy and mother-in-law was happy – perfect.
Could This be a Solution for us?
This got me thinking. Maybe we could use Christelle’s “expiry date plan” to keep tighter control of meetings.
It has often bugged me that someone I am meeting turns up late, then spends several minutes getting a coffee and getting settled before we can get down to business. And then fully expect to carry on with the meeting (because there is more to discuss) even after the time I have allocated has gone past. This impacts on my schedule and I find it quite inconsiderate. I am sure the same thing is happening every day, in meetings across the world. And I think Christelle’s plan can be a solution to this problem.
Maybe Set Expiry Times
I think clear communication is key here. If we are transparent about our “expiry” times with regards to meetings, I believe our chances of solving this issue, increases. For example, when setting up a meeting with someone – instead of just agreeing to the start time – also agree the end time. Right off the bat, all parties know and understand the boundaries.
It is also a good thing to remind the other person of your “expiry time” at the start of the meeting. A quick “I need to be out of here by 11AM” is polite yet firm.
A final phase to the “expiry time” idea – one that I implemented a few weeks ago – is to do a final reminder 15 minutes before the scheduled end time (if needed). If I can see that we haven’t covered all points and time is running out, I’ll remind the other person that I need to leave shortly. This usually speeds things up and focuses the discussion.
I know meetings are one of our biggest time consumers. I have worked with many business owners and employees over the years that needed help in minimising the impact of meetings on their time. Setting expiry times will go a long way to achieving exactly that.