It was a rainy Thursday morning and again, despite my good intentions, I found myself leaving the house with only minutes to spare before the train pulled in. As I dashed down the road, I could hear the train approaching. A glance at my overpriced Apple watch suggested I still had 90 seconds. I got to the station and straddled my way down the many steps, just as the doors closed and the train pulled away. “Damn and blast!” I thought to myself, whilst trying to style out the fact I had just run all the way from my house, some 6oo yards away.
Whilst waiting for the next train and gathering my breath, well, trying to stop gasping for air actually (it’s been many years and several pastries since I last did any strenuous exercise), I pondered my frustration about the train doors closing “early”. If you read the website terms and conditions (which I did), the facts state that the timetabled time is the time that train leaves the station. Several activities take place before this time including all doors being shut, the platform checked, signals checked and controls activated in the drivers cab.
So by rights the train doors should beep 30 seconds before the stated time of the train, remembering that the stated time is the time the train should depart, not the time it arrives. I think we have fallen victim to the trains being constantly late.
I then started to consider this behaviour within schools and our workplaces. When we were at school, the times stated on the timetable were the times the lesson started, similarly when at work we state the start of the meeting time.
However, when at school, someone else takes on the responsibility of ringing a bell 5 minutes before the start of the next lesson, giving us ample time (in theory at least, not taking into account trips and wedgies on the way) to wander to the next lesson so that we started on time. Do we ring any bells when at work? We have all at some time or another discussed meeting etiquette and how we should arrange meetings with a clear agenda, that start on time, set clear actions with clear minutes and end on time.
How often in reality have we spent all day apologising for being late rather than apologising for leaving 5 minutes before the end of the current meeting to avoid being late for the next? It’s not rude, its ensuring we offer courtesy to each and every meeting we have accepted. Remember, if meetings are arranged where you are not clear what the agenda is or why you are needed, ask. Your time and the time of others is precious, don’t waste it.
P.s. I’m a fan of meetings, for me they are not something to be mocked, rather to be valued, they are opportunities to collaborate with our amazing peers, so respect that time and respect your peers, ensure there is an agenda and make sure you adhere to the timebox.
Remember, it’s OK for meetings to deliver value early.