Take Five – How A Little Break Goes A Long Way

Rushing to meetings to appointments to teleconferences and back again.  Ah, the life of a busy professional.  Whenever I work with a client who is scheduled back-to-back I am often put in mind of the disheveled teacher charging down the school hallway, papers flying asunder, racing to her next class.

In fact, change that imagery only slightly and you’ll have a more apt description of what’s really going on during that charge down the hall.  Imagine that instead of papers floating to the floor, what’s getting lost are ideas and tasks. 

To state it even more directly, when we schedule ourselves back-to-back, we never get a chance to “finish” one meeting before “starting” the next.  We are still thinking about the last event as we enter the next one, resulting in lost information on both ends.  That’s because we begin to forget details about the prior meeting and we aren’t focused yet on the current meeting.  It’s ineffective and inefficient and, more importantly, it’s unnecessary.

Solution: Schedule at least five minutes between all appointments.

If you give yourself five minutes between events, you’ll have a moment to jot down or otherwise record all the pertinent information about the last event before entering the next one.  This will greatly increase your effectiveness and your information capture in terms of thoughts, ideas and tasks that originated during the last meeting.  Plus, you will enter the next appointment focused and fresh, ready to address the issues presented there.

Effecting this change is relatively easy once you make the decision it’s valuable.  My recommendation is to be like TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) – start your meetings on the 5’s – 00:05 and 00:35.  If you use Outlook, simply set your meetings for those times, which is especially effective if you use the Invite function in Outlook.  You can also direct anyone who schedules you to do the same.  Finally, you can regularly and repeatedly communicate your desire to do so to everyone with whom you meet, creating a bit of cultural shift in the process.

When you’re asked why the change, you explain that you want to give your full attention to every appointment.  By putting five minutes in between each, you are assured of capturing everything from the last event and of starting the next event fully focused.  Oh, and by the way, you might even have time to grab a cup of coffee or catch up on some other items (voice mails, e-mails, etc.) during that five minutes – assuming you’ve already completed your primary objective and still have some time left!

Try scheduling a few minutes between meetings to see if it increases your effectiveness and efficiency, while also reducing your stress.

One thought on “Take Five – How A Little Break Goes A Long Way”

  • I could not agree more with this tip. I have been using this technique (scheduling space between meetings) for about a decade and it works quite well. No more feeling rushed and my notes are much more complete.

    Five minutes is frequently a good time limit, but I have also scheduled in blocks of 15 minutes after meetings that I know will have quick follow ups. I have found that when the meeting is fresh on my mind, I can pound out a number of follow ups in those few minutes and still have time to refresh my water before my next meeting.
    To your success!

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