When was the last time you were late for a meeting? Or found your once orderly meeting agenda in complete disarray because of a few late arrivals? If you’re like me, chances are this happens a lot.

I’ve come to think of it as the failure/frustration cycle. In nearly every meeting situation, there’s a good chance you’re either failing (to arrive on time) or facing frustration (from the tardiness of others).

Now, to be fair, it’s often not our fault. “My last meeting ran over” or “I had to stop and grab some water” or maybe even “I just can’t walk fast enough to get from point A to point B in 30 seconds or less” is heard in and around conferences rooms around the world.

So what choices are we left with? I’ve thought a lot about this in my sprints from meeting to meeting and have identified these (equally lame) choices:

1 – Leave the prior meeting early to ensure on-time arrival to the following appointment. Of course, you may miss an action-item summary at the end of the session or upset the attendees of meeting one. Lame.

2 – Arrive late to the next meeting to ensure you were able to wrap the prior properly. In this case, the second meeting attendees will likely be frustrated the introduction needs to be repeated. Or worse, they wasted time waiting for you to arrive. Also lame.

3 – Clone yourself. Actually, this is sort of cool… but not currently possible. Default lame.

Until the classic flick “Multiplicity” can become a reality, it seems like we’re stuck with two less than ideal options – be late or leave early.

The bottom line is the entire concept of having one meeting start when another is scheduled to end sets us all up for a never-ending spiral around the failure/frustration cycle. Sometimes you’re the one making everyone wait and other times, you’re left waiting.

But there’s actually a fourth option to be considered that could help break the failure/frustration cycle. It’s pretty simple, actually. A time buffer between meetings. Imagine this: a business world where meetings end at :50 or :25. We could have whole minutes to walk down the hall, wrap up a conversation or maybe even grab a cup of coffee (gasp!). If you want to be really wild, there might even be time to fire off an email or two.

Of course, I realize this really, truly only works if it’s embraced on a large scale. Sure, Taylor could implement this, but if our client partner’s don’t follow the same schedule, it would immediately derail.

But let’s step back into dream world for a moment and think about the benefits of such a buffer:

  • Having full attendance for the entire meeting would mean higher levels of productivity
  • If people have a few minutes between meetings to check email, take a bio break, etc. they will be more focused DURING the meeting – again, a productivity win

Do you think a meeting buffer would help you and your colleagues be more productive?

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