Get More Time In Your Work Day By Setting 'Hard Stops' For Meetings

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Time is one of those things that we can all probably use more of.

Especially in work situations, it’s easy for a meeting or a phone call to run over its allotted time, leaching time off the next task you had on your calendar and ultimately leading you to not have time to finish those last few things you have scheduled for the day. That, or keep you at the office for an extra few hours so you can finish them.

A few years ago I started enacting a “hard stop” mentality to most of the meetings and calls I had. Inspired by a few of the people I interviewed, who said they had a “hard stop” after 14 or 30 minutes, the practice makes it so you know what you’re doing has a definitive end time, facing you to get what you need to get done completed in the allotted time.

It’s great.

When you tell someone that you have to leave a meeting after a set amount of time, that person makes more of an effort to get to the point. They’re on time, ready to start your meeting or chat, and the whole thing moves significantly more efficiently.

In contrast, when I would just show up for that 10am meeting without establishing a hard end time, often the person I was meeting with would still be meeting with the reporter before me, pushing our meeting to 10:05 or 10:15. The first 10 minutes would be filled with that person getting coffee or waters, checking in with their secretary… stuff.

In the end, most of the meetings I’ve had that should have taken less than 30 minutes would run over an hour because there was so much unnecessary activity happening around them. Saying I had a hard stop after just 30 minutes made everything run much more efficiently.

Do I have somewhere to be in 30 minutes? Sometimes I do, sometimes that next place is my desk to work or a place to pick up lunch. The whole point is to dictate how much of your time you’re giving something, so it doesn’t hijack more of your day because it can.

If you want to stay in that meeting longer, sure, do it. But by setting a limit ahead of time you’re also giving yourself a great opening to leave if you need to, and reclaim those minutes or hours of the day you might lose otherwise.

This week Fast Company ran a story by the COO of MessageBird that made a similar suggestion. Her suggestion is to simply set boundaries for what you’re able to do. Identify how much time you have to dedicate to something, tell people what they are, and stick to it. And give yourself some time to yourself as well. You deserve it.


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