At school, we are conditioned to move at the sound of a bell after a period of time learning one subject. In business we talk about, and run courses on, Time Management. We drill staff about times of work and we either reward them or penalise them for stepping outside of the stated hours of work.
Most classes and appointments we attend outside of work have defined start times and end times.
Public transport has departure times and for some of the more complex travel plans, several modes of public transport are needed to reach the desired destination.
Parties have start times “It’s 7 for 7.30 dahling” and then you hear some of the in-crowd saying that they won’t arrive until 8.30 because that is “fashionably late” and allows them to “make an entrance”
How many times have you been told “I simply didn’t have time to…”
Well this week the universe has been placing lots of examples of time-keeping in front of me and I have been inspired to take the time to write this blog for you.
It all started when Michael Clerck posted a status on LinkedIn that reminded me of training I’d given a long time ago. (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6561922287484878848/ )
The essence of Michael’s post is that there are 86400 seconds in every day. Everyone on the planet has the same length of time, it is how they choose to spend those seconds that makes the difference. If they chose not to use those seconds, they lose them at midnight.
Then, Catriona Cripps recorded her regular Wednesday teach but broadcast it at lunchtime rather than first thing in the morning, because she knew she would be travelling at the normal time and knew that she could be in a suitable space later in the day. She made a point of letting her audience know what was happening and during her teach said that it sits more professionally with her to give a specific start time rather than just going live and hoping people will be able to join.
I have just started using Calendly as an application to allow others to book time with me when it is convenient for both parties. Calendly allows me to choose the length of the meetings so that there is an expectation of duration before the meeting starts.
I was brought up to be punctual by my parents. They helped me to understand how to read an analogue watch, they bought my first digital watch. They provided me with an alarm clock and showed me how to set it so that I could get up in the morning, carry out my pre-school rituals and walk to school before the whistle went – yes, I am that mature that I could still walk safely to school on my own as a 7 year old – it was a 10 minute walk and we didn’t have bells, we had whistles!!
My parents taught me that if a party invite said “7 for 7.30” then I was to arrive at around 7.15 to enable me to freshen up and collect myself before the activities started.
My parents taught me that if the school whistle sounded at 8.45am and it took me 10 minutes to walk to school, that the latest I should be leaving the house was 8.30am because that gave me 5 minutes to cover any incidents (mostly which were buying sweets at the newsagents!!).
As I grew older and went to work, I relied on public transport, so my work start time was 9am. It was a 15 minute uphill walk from the bus station to the office. The 8.30am bus reached the bus station at 8.50am and the 8am bus at 8.25am – so it was clear that the 8am bus was the best but if I missed it, I could get the 8.30am but I’d have to run up the hill – if you know me, you know what was never going to happen!
As I continued my business career I started to attend meetings, and latterly to host them. As a participant I received an email that told me the start and end times of the meetings, the subject matter of the meeting and the input that would be expected from me. As Outlook because the tool of choice in business, these meetings were pre-populated into my calendar and it was excellent, because as primary attendee, the host could see if my diary was clear and could plan around me. If I was an optional attendee, then it didn’t really matter.
What I began to notice was that in the late 80s and early 90s (yes last century), participants paid great notice to start and end times. They were busy people and often had back to back meetings, so they needed them to run on time and be kept to agenda. Meetings were mostly face to face in a meeting room
Towards the end of the 90s and into the 21st Century, different meeting software became available. Global meetings could be held where hundreds of people were gathered into rooms around the globe and the speakers could speak to all of them. On a more local level, managers could be dotted around the country and could be pulled together with the use of videoconferencing.
Using these new technologies were sometimes fraught with technical problems that the IT staff needed to sort out, often meaning that meetings didn’t start at their scheduled time, or ran on a bit. This had a knock-on effect and people started to get blasé about the start times of meetings, they would turn up a few minutes late with a cup of coffee in their hand and then spend several minutes organising themselves – nothing was said.
Then more and more people started being lax with their timekeeping – and then with their agendas. Agendas became less focussed and the conversation ceased to be controlled by the chair.
Meetings would happen where some attendees scratched their heads at why they had been invited. Others would leave the room disgruntled that they’d spent an hour in a room and had nothing tangible for it. Attendees were getting busier and busier, their schedules full of back to back meetings with no time to implement what they were targeted to do, so at the next meeting, their actions had to be carried forward – wasting more time for the gathered people.
Do you see what was happening here?
A slow erosion of respect and value.
You see when my parents taught me how to read a clock and how to calculate journey times, they instilled in me that it was respectful to be punctual. They instilled that other people were reliant on me to keep to time, so that they could keep to time. In my early working days, this teaching was re-iterated time and again.
I am irritated by the laissez-faire attitude of some people to time-keeping.
When I was a Group Leader for 4Networking down in Devon, I was presented with a timed script that meant we kept on schedule. There was time for schmoozing (that’s my word for the opening 30 minutes where you grab your coffee, lay out your marketing materials and have an informal chat with the other people in the room), then it was time to collect your buffet breakfast, then it was time for your 40 second introduction, then on to a 15 min presentation then on to targetted discussions with others in the room. If you followed the timings on the script, the meeting would start at 8am and would finish at 10am and everyone could get about their day.
And this was where I first started getting irritated. Your pitch to the room was 40 seconds. Returning members knew this. When you had a new person, who was clearly nervous, who needed a little confidence boosting, they were allowed to run on, but a member was timed and penalised for going over (£1 donation to the charity pot). Most members played the game and stuck to their allotted time, but some, the same few, went over week after week – and they saw it as their RIGHT to do so. I had many private conversations in those days and left them in no doubt that their consistent flouting of the 40 seconds was actually rude – and it encouraged others around the table to also go on longer, which meant that other parts of the script had to be curtailed.
And then I started to notice a new trend – the serial meeting booker and dodger!
It started in Devon – I’d phone someone to invite them to a meeting, they’d agree, book themselves in and then on the day, they’d not turn up. Now what was happening in the background was that I had to speak to the venues the day before and confirm how many for breakfast, how many special diets etc. And I had to pay for the numbers I’d confirmed, not the numbers that turned up. There was very little margin in the price of the network meetings and there were a couple of occassions where the money taken on the door did not cover the bill received for breakfast – that’s no way to run a business is it!
And then I moved to Scotland and my goodness me – how this was amplified! I’ve spoken to several network leaders and business strategist who have told me that people have booked and paid for their place, to not turn up! How does that make sense? You are paying for a service and then you don’t turn up?
I accept that there are last minute issues and challenges that may pop up, but some of the attendees are doing this month on month.
We need to respect the time of others. We all have 86,400 seconds in one day and we get to choose how we spend them.
As a Business Coach, I will conduct 30 and 60 minute sessions with my clients. I conduct them mostly online due to my remote location. I set up my calendar to give me 10 minutes preparation time ahead of the call, then the call, then 10 minutes wrap-up time after before the next call is scheduled. If my clients run over their allotted time slots, that has a knock-on effect for me so I have taken to starting my call with a clarification of the time and the subject matter we are going to discuss. If my clients start trying to deviate from this and we are going down a blind alley to a cul-de-sac, I will pull them back to the agenda and I will give them a 5 minute warning of the end of the call.
This is about respecting my time and theirs.
Imagine this scenario:-
You are a business coach. You have a client who pays you a monthly retainer promptly, every month. Your contract says that you will have a 1 hour call with them on the 1st Month to review the previous month and set the direction for the coming month. For months, your client turns up diligently, does the work and enjoys the direction. Then in the next month, they don’t turn up. They don’t inform you at all as to what’s happened. You are concerned. You track them down. They don’t respond. The following month, you schedule the call, they agree to attend but instead of attending at the agreed time, they are 90 minutes late and then state that they can’t have the meeting because they have another meeting that they cannot miss. They tell you that they still want you as a coach. They love working with you. They get great value from your sessions, but they just can’t at the moment.
How do you feel?
You’ve booked 60 mins in your diary for them. They weren’t there at the allotted time – can you reallocate that 60 minutes – no it is highly unlikely that you just drop another client in – so I expect you use the time to write a blog, record a podcast or do some admin – but this feels like a waste of your time.
Then they turn up 90 mins later – what are you doing? Are you with another client – very likely you are! So now that client is interfering with another client’s time as you have to take 10 minutes to understand the story and get an update. Then you’ve lost your flow with the diligent client, who might also be wondering why you had to deal with the first client.
And then you’ve finished with the diligent client and now you have turn your attention back to the first client to get their notes updated and to get them booked in for the next month, and perhaps they’ve hung around because you have a spare 20 mins that they want to have – that 20 minutes may be your only comfort break in the day.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You see, it’s about respect.
You can be the most mild mannered person on the planet, but when pushed too far you can be irritated.
So next time you start to say “I’m really sorry, I just didn’t have time…” think about what you are saying. To me, I read into that statement “I’m sorry, I didn’t prioritise the task you gave me because you are actually not important to me.” That feels different doesn’t it.
Those of you who have trouble saying “no”, you have 86,400 seconds in your day.
28,800 seconds is the recommended 8 hour sleep cycle.
36,000 seconds is an 8 hour work day with 2 hours travelling
18,000 seconds is 5 hours of family time
Leaving you just 3,600 seconds – yes, just 1 hour a day – to do whatever else it is that relaxes and refreshes you
So based on those numbers, based on these stories, what will you do to respect your own time and the time that others gift to you?
Me? I plan my journeys with a 30 minute travel buffer to take account of accidents, I plan to arrive at a venue 10 minutes ahead of my alloted time there and I always, without exception, call the person I’m having the meeting with as soon as I am aware that there may be a chance that I will be late.
It’s all about RESPECT.
Samantha Marshall – 6th August, 2019