10 ways to win at professional time etiquette

Being late, whether it is for a meeting or missing a deadline, can be seen as not just rude – effectively communicating that you believe you are far more important than the person you are meeting – but can give the impression that you are inefficient, lazy or are simply not interested. In the work place, the repercussions of poor time management go as far as destroying the opportunity for a promotion and potentially disciplinary action.

Below are a few tips to help with time etiquette in the work place.

1. Arrive 5-10 minutes early to meetings. This may sound very obvious but it is frequently forgotten. Time is an economic resource so wasting people’s time is ultimately costing them money. Even if you are early then use spare time wisely to catch up on emails or read through any notes you have made for the upcoming meeting.

2. Allow enough time between meetings. This is not only for transit but to prepare mentally. Think about what time of day you are travelling. If it in is rush hour then be prepared to allow an extra 15 minutes for travel time. Do not be optimistic, it is better to give yourself that extra time than to be late and waste other people’s time.

3.Stick to the agenda. When you only have an hour with an important client or contact then it is good to make the most of their time. Other members of the meeting will have different time commitments to you. Having an agenda immediately indicates the purpose of the meeting and prevents an initial 10 minute discussion about what needs to be covered. By sticking to the agenda it avoids endless follow up emails and will give people the impression that you value their time and that you are an efficient business person.

4.Confirm meetings ahead of time to ensure they are still going ahead. It is amazing how often people forget to put a meeting in their diary. Knowing a couple of days in advance that a meeting needs to be rescheduled saves on preparation and travel time for all attendees.

5.Customs vary from country to country so try not to offend anyone. For example, in Spain a deadline is seen more as a guideline and is not a big issue when missed. In Germany there is a precise time for every activity – when the business day ends it is expected for people to leave the office; overrunning a meeting at the end of the day may be seen as rude.

6.The more important the appointment, the more time you should allow for delays. If you are 5 minutes late for an internal meeting it is not as important to allow for delays as if you are 20 minutes late for a new business presentation. Being late for a new business meeting could cost you the business and potential fee.

7.If you are running late make sure that you have the person’s details that you are meeting so that you can let them know that you are running late and how long you will be. Unexpected travel problems are sometimes inevitable. If you have the details of the person you are about to meet it allows them to decide whether it is best to rearrange the meeting (depending on how late you are), or whether they can start working while waiting for you. Keeping them informed shows that your respect their time and shows that you are organised.

8. Do background research ahead of the meeting. Doing even the most basic research can save time in a meeting and allows the attendees to deal with the more interesting and important issues. Particularly when it comes to new business or a potential new lead, having knowledge about the people in the meeting illustrates that you are not there to waste their time.

9. Send a follow up message/thank you message in good time after the meeting. It is always necessary to send a follow up message after a meeting as it means the other people at the meeting do not have to waste their time chasing you up.

10. Prioritise assignments. It is important to make a to-do list to make sure that your tasks are completed in a timely and professional manner. Oftenthe individual waiting for your work needs it to complete their own. If your work is late it can impact others higher up in your company by disrupting their schedule so it is only polite to complete work on time.

11. Never have ‘Any Other Business’ (AOB) on an agenda. This is one of the biggest ways to waste time – if an issue or topic needs to be discussed, it should be on the agenda; if not, it should be carried to the next meeting. AOB provides an opportunity to be ambushed on items you are unprepared for or just to discuss random matters that are unimportant to achieving your business objectives.

These guidelines are not only good manners but can help in general with time management and day-to-day productivity.

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