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A Conversation with The Warrior Who Killed Time

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It was 5 p.m. on a Thursday evening as my colleague Alex and I were about to get into his car for our daily trip home from office between Abu Dhabi & Dubai. He unnecessarily adjusted the already set mirror, took off his silky tie and mumbled his usual words “I attended 5 meetings today… work is becoming crazy busy.”

At that moment, I was puzzled about what annoyed me more. Was it his pretentious tone trying to fake the wisdom of an exhausted warrior after a legendary battle, or simply was it his absurd confusion of activity versus productivity. I was so annoyed that I decided to speak up. I lowered the volume of radio and said “You know Alex, I feel very guilty today.”

Alex responded sarcastically: “So it was you after all who ate my Quinoa Salad?!”

I laughed and picked up a tiny piece of paper from my pocket. The note read: “The cost is 100 AED per hour per person!”[1]

“Imagine if each of our 1,000 employees attended just one unnecessary meeting per day Alex – that is 100,000 AED lost each day! How many of your 5 meetings were avoidable today?”

That got Alex deeply reflecting – I was worried he was thinking so deeply that he did not notice he was tailgating the Land Cruiser in front of us!

I continued, “from now on, I will be ruthless with my meetings! Meetings should be carefully planned, thoughtfully facilitated and succinctly delivered!

I won’t let myself or anyone in my team to attend any meeting without a clear agenda to maximize the value of those meetings”

“A mandatory agenda? You are too ambitious my friend!” Alex interjected cynically.

“Wait there is more” I went on “Since my attention and the quality of my thinking drops dramatically after 60 minutes, my meetings will last for a maximum of one hour!”

Ideas were buzzing in my head – accordingly words were flowing out of my mouth! So I continued “most of my meetings can actually be shorter!

How are you going to do that?” Alex asked curiously.

We currently let Outlook dictate our meeting style! Its default meeting duration is half an hour hence we blindly comply like obedient followers with meetings that are 30 or 60 minutes long! This causes us to book an hour and then unknowingly try to fill it with unnecessary discussions! “Most of of my meetings can be 40 minutes instead of an hour or 15 instead of 30″

As I finished my last sentence, heavy silence conquered the trip. I noticed Alex’s face; so I told him: “here are my 3 resolutions for next week:

1- Meetings will never last more than 60 minutes
2- A clear agenda is a prerequisite to attending any meeting
3- Most meetings can be shorter based on the items of the agenda

What are your thoughts Alex?”

After a deep sigh and in a calm voice, Alex answered “My calendar is full with meetings on Sunday… Work is getting seriously unbearable!”

[1] If an employee earns 10,000 AED per month, works 22 days a month, and 9 hours a day his net salary will be 50 AED per hour. Usually the total employment cost is double this number to include his recruitment, on boarding, medical insurance, training, office rent, end of service…

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