Jonathan Cabeza

Jonathan Cabeza

It has been 47,304,000 seconds since I started working at Husqvarna Group, the world’s largest producer of outdoor power products like robotic lawn mowers, garden tractors, chainsaws and trimmers. I have had the pleasure of learning about engineering, product management and sales. In addition, I have learned to appreciate the value of workplace etiquette and being courteous to anyone I come across at work. By now, you probably grabbed your smartphone, opened the calculator or unit conversion app to convert the figure above into more familiar units like days, months or years. You might be asking yourself why would I go through all the trouble to provide a timeframe in such an unusual way as well. The reason is quite simple. Every second matters and once a second is gone you cannot get it back.

Let’s pretend it is Monday morning and you have a meeting at 9 AM in one of the meeting rooms at work. It is now 9:10 AM and you just finished setting up the meeting (PowerPoint presentation, conference call, etc.) and you are ready to start; the prior meeting ran over 8 extra minutes. But hold on, someone who is critical to this meeting just sent you an instant message to let you know that he will be there in 3 minutes because he was in another meeting than lasted longer than expected. Then, you remember that you only have the meeting room reserved until 9:30 AM and there is another meeting after that. Your presentation, without the Q&A session, was 20 minutes long last time you timed it. At this point you are probably freaking out and asking yourself “why me? I was on time.” This probably sounds unbelievable, but it happened to me and it certainly did not feel great.

If I only had a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12S, the car that was modified as a time machine in the Back to the Future film trilogy, to go back in time and plan ahead to prevent this “perfect storm.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t an easy way out of this situation. However, a few years after taking a management course heavily focused on emotional intelligence and recently suffering the aftermath of the previously mentioned chaotic chain of events, I was driven to further develop a series of guidelines I had been using in the past to avoid similar scenarios, which was obviously not good enough. This latest version has made sure, up to this day, that all my meetings start and end on time, and has decreased the impact that other people’s tardiness has on my team. I would like to pay it forward and share it with you.

1) Booking meeting rooms: This is my favorite. If you are booking a meeting room, make one reservation as you normally would with all participants and also make an additional booking just for yourself 10 to 15 minutes before the meeting starts. This will allow you to be prepared to start the meeting on time even if the previous meeting lasts longer than scheduled.

2) Provide a timed agenda: Provide a timed agenda at the beginning of your presentation and make sure to include the Q&A session on it. This will encourage your audience to leave the questions for the end.

3) Rehearse your presentation: The more you practice, the better your presentation will turn out. Practicing will also help you give the presentation quickly and effectively giving more time for the Q&A.

4) Q&A time warning: Once you are done presenting, keep track of time to make sure you stay within schedule. Let your audience know that time is running out and that you will be taking one or two more questions.

5) Follow-up meeting: Sometimes new topics and questions arise that you will not be able to answer during that meeting due to time constraints. Schedule a follow-up meeting if needed and encourage the audience to reach out to you in person, by phone or email with any additional questions.

6) Audience’s back-to-back meetings: If you are not the presenter and you have a meeting immediately after, let the presenter know in advance that you do.

7) Smart meeting scheduling: Avoid early morning meetings to make sure that everybody is in the office and have been able to catch up with time-sensitive matters. In addition, try scheduling your meetings when all attendants do not have to attend meetings before and after yours.

8) Suggesting a different meeting time: If you believe that there is a chance that you might not be able to make it to a meeting on time, be courteous and suggest a different meeting time; I tend to offer a brief explanation if I have to resort to this and do so, at least, one business day before the meeting.

However, you do not have to limit yourself to fighting tardiness merely at work. You can do the following at home to ensure you are always prompt:

1) Before the week starts: Adjust all your watches and clocks around your home with a different time between 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time; different times will prevent you from knowing how much of a safety cushion you have. Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep (set an alarm to go to bed if needed). Try to prepare all your meals for the week.

2) The night before: Set one alarm and make sure your smartphone and/or alarm clock is several steps away to avoid snoozing (having one alarm and not being able to snooze means that you will wake up at the time you initially planned on waking up the night before). When you set the alarm, account for extra 15-30 minutes for unforeseen events like traffic, pumping gas, etc. Ensure that your smartphone has enough charge to last the whole night and that your alarm clock’s backup battery still works; this will protect you in the event of losing power during the night. Finally, choose your work outfit for the next day and prepare your gym bag if you work out or perform any activity immediately after work.

It definitely takes some effort adding every step mentioned above to your life. However, by doing so, you will be modeling the way, and you will be taking an important step towards improving yourself as a professional while you are positively impacting your company’s culture; all your peers will appreciate the effort you are putting in and will likely follow your example. I realize my list is not perfect and, thankfully, I still have decades to keep improving it. Surely, I am not alone in this fight. So, what do you do to make every second count?

Jonathan Cabeza
Global Trainee
Product Management & Development – Consumer Brands
Charlotte, USA

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