I remember once being summoned to a pretty high-powered meeting, to discuss an important contract that was being delivered by the organisation I worked for at the time. It was one of those meetings which everyone – particularly my boss - took very seriously; the only viable excuse for missing it would be that you had been beamed up to Mars.
When the agenda and papers for the meeting arrived, my heart sank. I could tell at once that I’d neither be able to contribute to, nor learn anything from, most of the three hour time slot required. The area I had to report on would last for ten minutes at most, and was towards the end of the agenda, so I got ready to spend the best part of 160 minutes nervously awaiting my turn to speak, worrying about all the work I could usefully be doing instead.
Then I decided to take a risk. I got in touch with the meeting organiser, and confidently declared: “I’ve got another appointment with an important contact at the same time as the meeting you’ve invited me to, so I won’t be able to attend until the last 30 minutes. Can you let me know if you require anything from me before the meeting, and also exactly what you’d like from me when I’m there?”.
I nervously awaited a response, sure the ground would open up and swallow me for my temerity. When the response came, it was clear and to the point: “That’s fine; your thoughts on item 4 would be welcome, and if the report could be a verbal one with a short written paper for people to take away, that would be helpful.” Phew!
Did I lie in order to get out of the meeting? No. As it turned out, I did have an appointment with someone important: myself.
I used the time to put together a short but comprehensive report for the meeting, to give some considered thought to exactly how I’d present it, and to complete various other tasks that were hanging over me. When I got to the meeting, I was more relaxed and attentive, and able to contribute far more as a result.
Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with yourself when you need to. I’m presuming that you regularly give up huge chunks of your time to the important people in your life – just make sure that you’re one of them, and that you’re getting a decent slice of the pie!
“What I know is that everyone lives on their own planet in their own time zone and they don’t pay close attention to yours. You might find this really depressing…I find it really liberating and useful. It means you can go somewhere and come back and the world won’t have crumbled without you.”
~ Lesley Garner
What to do with your appointment with you? Well, of course there’s always work to be done! However, here are some other refreshing ideas:
© Brian Cormack Carr, 2011