As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of people wanting to meet with you. With promises of partnerships and on-going business referrals, why wouldn’t you take the meeting?

A year ago, I couldn’t imagine saying no to a meeting. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get some great media exposure for my ventures and with this attention came loads of meeting requests. I found it difficult to say no to any. I loved the possibility of doing business with lots of people and continued to fall into the same trap: leaving a meeting with a relative stranger with the hopes of overnight success. How many times has that happened to you?

It’s always so exciting to have someone tell you they think you’re doing great things and would like to partner with you. The problem is that most of the time these discussions are dead ends and I’d leave meetings with such high hopes, thinking that this meeting could be the key to our success. And while most of the time it was due to lack of follow-up from the person I met with, there were a number of occasions where I was the one who didn’t pursue the opportunity after thinking things through.

If I added up all the time I’ve wasted on pointless meetings, it would probably account for a good two months of my life – well over 80,000 minutes. Now, I’m not saying don’t meet with anyone, but since I started to focus on and really appreciate the importance of my time, I’ve started to say no to most meeting requests. Unfortunately there are tons of people out there that want a lot more out of you than you can get from them and it’s important to be able to identify these situations.

So what do you do next time you get a mail asking you to meet over coffee?

Respond and explain that your schedule lends for little time away from work, and ask if they could send a short synopsis of what they would like to discuss, the desired outcome and the benefits for both parties. If they can’t send you this then your decision to not meet is a great one.

Be careful of the people who say, “I don’t want to discuss it via email as it’s too complex.” Firstly, if it’s that complicated, do you really want to be spending your time on it? And secondly, nothing is too complex to be outlined in a brief mail.

If you like what they say, why not start with a brief call? A 10-minute phone call is enough time to decide if it’s worth taking the next step. Remember, meetings take a lot of time out of your day: It’s not just the meeting itself, but traveling there and back, finding parking and passing endless minutes of small talk. Just see what Nic Haralambous says about the 25-minute meeting.

Once you do eventually meet, be sure to set clear deliverables during the session and nail them down in a post-meeting email to ensure the conversation doesn’t fade away. Think about it: You’re discussing an opportunity outside of your current business plan, so when you leave the meeting your life goes back to your core responsibility: your business. It’s easy to forget about the conversation, so you have to make sure you pounce on the opportunities that really are great.

Where to from here?

I implemented the “No Meeting Week” principle once a month. For that week, I cancelled all my internal meetings, pushed big client pitches to the following week and planned my week around productivity. Ultimately, I was doing work that made an immediate impact to our business. The results? Outstanding! I produced three months’ worth of planned work in a single week and our business is already seeing the positive outcome.

Eight to nine hours of work in a day is minimal. It flies past in the blink of an eye, so it’s crucial that every moment in the office is spent wisely and productively.

What’s your go-to method for cutting down on pointless meetings? Let me know in the comments, or share this post with someone who’s always downstairs at the coffee shop.

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