What can you accomplish in five minutes?

So many of us are in back-to-back calls, especially in these remote-first times. To help ease call overload, our team has started scheduling meetings to begin five minutes after the hour.

I’ll be honest, when we were first asked to implement this, I didn’t know if it would work. Would people notice the adjusted time? Would they be confused if I, as the meeting host, wasn’t on yet? Would they drop off the meeting before others joined? Would they think the start time was an accident?

The answer to these questions was yes. All of the above has happened. Typically it’s someone joining the meeting at the top of the hour, not noticing the adjusted time. And that’s ok, it takes a while to get used to a new practice.

But over time I’ve noticed that people have adjusted and have even ended up loving the extra five minutes between calls. It becomes a topic of conversation at the start of meetings, and I’ve heard feedback from many folks who really appreciate getting a few minutes back.

So, what can you accomplish with a delayed meeting start time? Here are some examples we’ve heard, along with a few added suggestions for fun:

  • Answer an urgent email or IM
  • Stretch your neck and back
  • Grab a cup of coffee, drink of water, or a snack
  • Finish up the previous meeting without running late to the next
  • Write follow-up notes from the call you just finished
  • Open files needed for the next meeting
  • Change positions from sitting to standing at your desk
  • Use the restroom and wash your hands for the 42nd time today (because, hello COVID)
  • Play with your pet cat, dog, goldfish, bunny, etc.
  • Make sure your kids are still doing their homework and haven’t switched over to video games
  • Move the load of laundry from the washer to the dryer
  • Grab a delivery from the porch (not today, porch pirates!)
  • Answer that text from your significant other about what’s for dinner
  • Do a round of jumping jacks to get the blood flowing

If you want to add an extra five minutes here and there to your life (and to the lives of fellow attendees), I’ve got to tip to make it even easier in Outlook. Update your calendar settings to start all new meetings five minutes late:

  1. Go to File > Options > Calendar   
  2. Under Calendar options, check “Shorten appointments and meetings”
  3. Choose “Start late” from the drop down menu

What best practices have you found for combating meeting fatigue? Does your team start meetings five minutes after the hour (or end five minutes early, another Outlook setting option)? And how do you spend your five minutes?

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