I’ve frequently wondered why I feel less productive when I have appointments scheduled. The meeting was productive, so why do I feel like the whole day has been less productive than days where I have no meetings?
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research might have the answer because it reveals that when we have free time before a scheduled appointment, the duration of that free time feels shorter and we achieve less. This makes sense to me, however I was intrigued by the results from the group who were told they could read for one hour and that after this reading time they had no appointment, no commitment, nothing? How much available time did they think they had to read?
The participants of the study were split into two groups, and each was told they could spend one hour reading. Group 1 was told that after their 1 hour of reading, they had a friend arriving and there was nothing they needed to do to prepare, “You are ready for your friend to come by”. Group 2 was told they had no plans, no friend coming to visit.
After reading for one hour, each group was asked to state, objectively, how much time they had available to read and both groups said 50 minutes. Despite not needing to prepare for their friend’s arrival, Group 1 built-in ‘just in case’ time and yet Group 2, who had no friend arriving also did the same!
Next, both Groups were asked to state, subjectively, how much time they felt they had available to read and Group 1, with a visiting friend, said they felt they had just 40 minutes available to read!
Objectively, both groups lost 10 minutes, despite being told they had a full 60 minutes to read and subjectively, Group 1, with a visiting friend, lost a whopping 20 minutes! When you average this out over a week, a month or a year, it’s a whole lot of time lost.
This study got me thinking about the different ways we can prevent time loss because when you’re running your own business time is precious and rarely does it feel as if there’s enough of it to go around. Here are some ideas which will prevent you from losing time.
- Instead of spreading your meetings throughout the day, try and schedule them back to back. A client of mine achieves this stacking approach by choosing a centrally located venue, and he meets everyone there, thereby pushing the time loss on to other people!
- If the stacking approach isn’t practical, experiment with the times of day that you have meetings. Perhaps it’s better for you to always schedule your meetings for first thing in the morning or maybe the back end of the day works for you? The idea is to establish a regular, scheduled, time for your long-term, creative and strategic thinking.
- Be less accommodating! When you have an appointment in your diary, it’s easier to be less accommodating, and a good trick is to ‘hard landscape’ your diary. What this means is you block out regular chunks of time when you will focus on your long-term, strategic and creative thinking and set it as a recurring meeting. The reason for doing this is that you want to disrupt old habits and an empty diary is your cue to say yes! Next time a client requests a meeting, and it clashes with one of these chunks, your yes cue is disrupted, and you are more likely to negotiate a different date and time.
- Switch to Video. Get yourself some decent headphones with a mic and use video conferencing instead of a face to face meeting. Video calls are not new tech; the first concepts were developed in the 1870s, and AT&T experimented with video phones in 1927 and began using video conferencing for its Picturephone service in the early 1970s. There are plenty of options to choose from, and I think the easiest is Zoom because all you do is send someone your personal URL, the recipient clicks on it, and the meeting starts. Zoom is as simple as pressing redial on your phone.
What techniques do you use to prevent you from losing time and which help you work smarter not harder? I’d love to hear from you.