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Productivity / Business Productivity

How to avoid the black hole of meetings

Do you find it impossible to say no to people who want meetings? Katie McMurray shows how to avoid meetings and how to stop wasting your time, and theirs.

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“Can we have a meeting?”

Do those words cause your heart to leap; your palms to sweat?

Mine sure used to.

I’d be agreeing out loud, “Sure, when are you free? What suits you?”.

In my mind, I was counting the hours and effort it would take. I’d need to organise children’s drop offs and pickups.I’d be ironing clothes and putting on make-up.I’d be wearing heels to the CBD for goodness sake.

"Waste of time is epidemic. My time is my life’s capital. In forty years I won’t be here."

But the worst violation was the time: two to three hours.

Especially given I’d often not even know the reason for the meeting. It would be someone who “might want to work with me” but since there was seldom any discussion about their needs prior to the meeting I’d go into it unsure as to whether I could even help them.

I do a lot with my spare time. It amazes people how much I fit in. I love swimming in the ocean daily and I practice QiGong. I’m a Tantra practitioner and facilitate Tantra events and assist on retreats for women.  It would be impossible to do these, and keep up with home and parenting, if I said yes to every meeting.

We treat the words ‘waste of time’ as if they’re rhetoric. They are not. Waste of time is epidemic. My time is my life’s capital. In forty years most of my friends and I will be dead.

We fall into the trap of blaming the other person.We say, “They asked for a meeting.Maybe they’ll turn out to be a great new client. It will probably be a waste of my time. Oh well!”

We are the problem here and it’s our job to provide a solution that guides them.

I find people ask for meetings when they feel unsure of what they need and what I do.

So here’s what we all need to do when we find ourselves in these situations; take a breath and ask some simple questions/offer these thoughts:

  • Thank you for that suggestion, can I ask you a few questions? (They will say yes, I hope!)
  • What is it you need?
  • What’s happening in your business that you’d like to share with me?

With the answers to these questions, and maybe a few others, you can probably work out if this person is someone you could assist. If not, you can say so.

You’ve just saved yourself three hours. (If I actually met up with every person who ever wanted to have a meeting with me I’d be out of business.)

If a person sounds like the kind of business owner I’d love to work with, I provide a way forward. It allows me to ask more questions and take them a few steps further – but still without the time investment of an in-person meeting.I make this suggestion: “I’d like to offer you a Complimentary One Hour Discovery Call. I do these on phone, Skype or Zoom.  Would you be willing to attend a Discovery Call?”.

I’m saving them and myself time, by offering a structured solution, instead of saying yes to a meeting with no scope.

I travel and spend time with people all the time.  I love it. I facilitate three-hour face-to-face meetings, I fly interstate to meet clients and run workshops and travel across town to attend business training programs every week. This is not about being anti-social or introverted. It’s about being strategic with my time, and caring of other people’s.

I’ve learned I must also value other people’s time. If I want to meet with someone, I need to say why. Last year, as I struggled to discover my new business model, I asked several people to meet me for an hour and support me.Flying Solo’s Robert Gerrish, was one who generously agreed.So did my cousin Marc, whose business acumen I respect very much. One person offered me 30 minutes. I said I needed an hour. They gave that. If people value time, they need to decide if my request is worth theirs. There are many competing priorities, which might include clearing a work load to spend the weekend with our kids.

We must take control of our time so the life we’re creating doesn’t fade away. That would be a true waste. In forty years, most of my friends and I won’t be here. Let’s use our time wisely.

Have you found ways to avoid meetings?

Katie McMurray

is passionate about business publicity and creating authentic public profiles for business owners.

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