The fact that this is just about the most common office complaint has spurred about a million suggestions for how to improve the situation, including low-tech hacks, sophisticated tech tools, innovative management approaches like making your people pay for meetings, and unusual scheduling approaches. Apparently, the business world is never out of new ideas in regard to keeping meetings under control.
Recently, on Signal v. Noise Jason Fried added another suggestion to the list, this one from business legend Warren Buffett. It's radically simple.
Buffett's approach to meeting management.
"If someone wants to see him," Fried writes of Buffett, "they are told to call and set up the meeting when they can see him tomorrow. So if you want to meet with him next Friday, you call next Thursday and say 'Can I see Mr. Buffett tomorrow?'"
Why is this a good idea? For Fried, the beauty of the approach is that it puts Buffett back in the driver's seat, allowing him to control his schedule, rather than the other way around. This way, if something comes up (and when does something not come up?), Buffett is free to react instead of being hemmed in by pre-commitments.
"He can determine how he wants to spend his time within the context of the next 24 hours instead of booking things weeks or months in the future. Now his schedule is relevant instead of prescient," notes Fried.
But only Warren Buffett could get away with that!
Your immediate reaction to this idea might be that only someone of Buffett's stature could get away with making everyone he meets rearrange his own schedule on short notice in this way. Fried understands the objection, but he's not buying it.
"Yes, he's Warren Buffet, but no one granted him the power to do that or say that. He decided that," Fried points out. But one could still ask when he decided that. It's far easier to decide on this approach when you're renowned as the country's most successful investor than when you're a junior designer two years out of college or a struggling first-time entrepreneur.
Still, even though implementing Buffett's approach might be a reach for many who are at the start of their careers, it's worth considering if you have a little more clout and are sick of having your days locked up weeks or even months in advance.
Ideally, would you like to steal Buffett's approach to meetings?