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A Little Advice

Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.6, No.2.
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It waits for no man... You can't store it, hoard it, stockpile it or buy extra. Once it's gone, it's gone and you can't get more. The subject of course is our most precious possession--time.

by Mick Woodbury

We all have the same number of minutes every day. But the difference is how we use them. We typically squander time on trivial matters and short-change the important ones, finally stealing some of it away from ourselves and our families.

At a recent management seminar, time was audibly and visibly demonstrated. The seminar was controlled by an obnoxious clock--a large, raspy, ever-vigilant clock that cared only about the passage of time. It started our days, determined our breaks, our meals, our work and lecture times and interrupted without apology.

While I adamantly wished for that clock to meet a violent demise, others were plotting clock-nappings and timer bashings. However, two-and-one-half days later, I had changed.

Today there is a timer/clock on my desk that is called into action frequently to start meetings, to help people stay targeted, to keep meetings short and to limit the length of discussions.

Why? Because it became clear that in a limited amount of time, you can accomplish quite significant tasks. And spending more time did not result in better results.

Here are a few of the more useful tips about "the clock":

Use it to start your meetings promptly. When the timer rings at the appointed time, you start the meeting. Wait for no one and soon, people learn to be prompt. It's embarrassing to stumble into a meeting that's already begun, especially if the door is closed.

If you state how long the meeting will last, it will be far more efficient than if there are no limits. Set the clock at three minutes earlier than the stated time for a recap.

Always circulate an agenda and a stated purpose. If you want to solve a problem, the chairperson should clearly state what the problem is and what solutions have been attempted in the past. In almost all cases, three minutes will be adequate time to succinctly state the problem and what was previously attempted to solve the problem.

Limit all comments to a preset amount of time. Two or three minutes of dialog by any one person will include just as much information as five--except without the repetition.

Three minutes before the meeting ends, the chairperson should recap the results and make action assignments or other necessary steps to complete the business. Everyone leaves knowing their ideas have been heard, what the game plan is and what is expected of them as a next step. Even better, their own time schedule is intact. Try it. You'll be a better manager and you'll have more of that precious commodity to use as you desire.

Mick Woodbury is president of Ripley-Woodbury Marketing Communications, a company that has helped businesses market products for over 50 years.

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