Saving more than time
May 3, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

It happened again. A document landed on my desk, and I found myself face-to-face with yet another entry for the “I wish I would have thought of it” file.

I have been preaching the concept for years, but, once again, I didn’t have the vision to see the practical application.

The subject of the article that a thoughtful colleague forwarded to my attention was the Bring TIM! Meeting Cost Calculator and Clock.

This simple, yet ingenious device tracks the cost of meetings while they are in progress.

This is a tool so powerful and so revolutionary, no company or conference room should be without one (or several).

TIM, by the way, is an acronym for Time is Money.

The operator enters the number of attendees and their average wage, and the device is placed in a prominent place for all to see.

As the minutes (and, in some cases, hours) drag on, those present can watch the cost accumulate.

Anyone present will be able to clearly see how many widgets the company will have to sell, or how many hours of service it will have to provide, just to make up for the resources that are squandered during the meeting.

For decades, I like so many other workers, have been forced to sit through meetings and listen to executives or managers complain about expenses and the shrinking bottom line, all the while thinking that if they would refrain from holding the workers hostage in endless meetings, and instead let us get back to work, the bottom line would take care of itself.

As I watched my youth slip away, I have often tried to calculate the amount of money that was being wasted in unproductive meetings. I have done this by mentally adding up the number of people in the room and attempting to calculate the cost based on their estimated wages.

Now, we don’t have to do this on our own. Bring TIM! can do it for us.

The beauty of the Bring TIM! is that it is so simple. Whether one is stuck in a small meeting, or one that includes the whole staff, one can keep track of the cost of the meeting.

Most of us learned about the concept of opportunity cost back in Economics 101.

If we apply this concept to business meetings, it means that we can either spend our time in unproductive meetings, or we can spend our time doing the work we were hired to do in the first place.

I am not saying all meetings are a complete waste of time, but many of them are, and all meetings would be better if they were shorter.

Meetings should be limited to those who absolutely need to be there, and agendas should be limited to what attendees need to know. Any other information can be disseminated through other means, such as e-mail. Topics that apply only to a subset of the group should be reserved for smaller meetings involving only those people.

In the worst-case scenario, the new tool could provide a more realistic view of the cost of meetings. They are never free, even if some of the participants are on salary, rather than paid hourly. Meetings take them away from other duties.

In the best-case scenario, the device could alter people’s behavior and convince them to re-evaluate the need for meetings, and could ultimately result in the elimination of some meetings, and the shortening of others. This would be a victory that we all could celebrate.

Critics might be concerned that meeting attendees might focus more on the clock than on what is being said during a meeting, but anyone who believes that everyone is paying attention at meetings now is engaging in wishful thinking, especially when the topic is one that does not pertain to them, or is one they have heard a hundred times before.

It is possible that the meeting cost calculator could actually improve attentiveness, because people would be less likely to tune out the way they do during long meetings or when material does not pertain to them.

If used properly, the device could go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest productivity-enhancing devices of all time.

And, at only $24.99, it is a bargain, as well.

The Bring Tim! Meeting Cost Calculator and Clock is available at www.bringtim.com.

It seems like a brilliant invention. I just wish I would have thought of it.

The value of the device is not limited to the workplace. It could easily be adapted for use by committees, organizations, government entities, and any other group that is plagued with long meetings.

The new calculator could save not only time, but the sanity of the legions of victims who have been forced to endure meetings that are endless, pointless, and unproductive.