5 Ways To Avoid Meetings Starting Late

Productivity and Meetings on time go hand in hand so don’t start them late, for productivity sake!

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

It is extremely frustrating that your daily productivity output is often measured by meetings being on time or not. If one meeting starts late, chances are everything will fall behind!

Make it important!

I was an efficiency and productivity adviser to the executive team at a major bank and on my first meeting, the chairman, my then boss, showed up 22 minutes late. That is right: 22 minutes late for a 60 minutes meeting! Around the table was all his team that, like me, waited patiently for the meeting to start.

After he arrived, introduced me to the team and asked me to demonstrate how I envisioned I could help this executive team to start breathing efficiency. I stood up, went to the white board in the room and wrote “22 minutes”. Without saying a word, I kept writing a formula I was once taught by one of my efficiency sensei’s:

So, the more minutes, the more people in the meeting room waiting, the more senior those people are, higher the chances of being late costing a fortune if this is a “typical behavior”.

As you can imagine, from that moment on, everyone in the room became closer to me but my boss was not amused! Reality is that if you are suppose to help a team to become more efficient and productive, mastering time management is the first point of focus!

Reality is that my then boss was not to blame. When you have a senior position like him, your schedule is pretty much decided for you and in this schedule, there were very few allowances for error: no allowances for commuting between meetings, personal time like bathroom for example.

Of course, if the meeting was mid afternoon and every meeting before that started late, chances are everything in one’s daily schedule, will end up late too!

Managing starting times

What needs to be considered is that, depending on the meeting, if the people involved are part of a process flow (like an approval signature, for example), the more time is wasted in meetings, the more the customer waits.

So here are some tips, collected from years of trial and error, to support a culture in an organization, to keep schedule and start meetings on time:

  1. Scheduling – If you need to book an one hour meeting, book it 50 minutes instead – Starting 5 past the time and finishing 5 before the time. This requires skill to adhere to schedule during meetings and REALLY finish 5 minutes to time. Otherwise you will lose credibility and no one will care for your efforts next time. This scheduling tip sets a message that time is important;
  2. Allowance – If you book 5 minutes past the time, that means you shouldn’t give any allowance to people to be on time. By implementing Tip # 1 above, you are allowing 10 minutes between meetings. Depending on locations, this should go up to allow commuting and avoid having a room full of people waiting for the one individual. Allowance should always be fractured in your scheduling start time otherwise, people will continue being late;
  3. Start on time! – Even if there are people still late for your meeting, respect the ones that arrive on time and always start your meeting at the time scheduled! And please, don’t summarize details during the meeting, every time someone arrives in the room late! No matter how senior they are! That is why we keep meeting minutes! Interruption should be kept to the minimum and summaries to allow whoever is late to catch up, not only extends the interruption, but makes everyone else’s time seem unimportant;
  4. Keep minutes for all meetings! – No excuses, minutes allow you to be on time, regardless of the lack of effort of some. And before being criticized, organize for the minutes to be distributed at the end of the meeting. That way, people will soon know that time keeping is important to you and the business;
  5. Use a Late Jar! – Depending if you have many senior people involved, the lighter you frame the “being on time”, the better. A fun method to slowly bring people on board is to use a Late Jar where people tip for every minute late. After a week, coffees are distributed, sponsored by the time keeping offenders!

There are countless articles that show that some meetings are an absolute waste of time. But, if you really need to have one, at least make it productive and more: ensure it doesn’t block the productivity of the rest of your day!

“Without standards, there can be no improvement.”

Taichi Ohno

If you think this article was useful, you should enjoy the article about the ability of saying NO to unnecessary meetings. Check out here!

Disclaimer: Apologies if some interpretations may offend a reader. I do rely on literal translation at times since English is a second language. My intention with this article is to spread awareness. I welcome your feedback to ensure I will not be constantly making the same errors in translation.

I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.