Today’s tip is about managing a slate of meetings when you’re doing out-of-town travel.
Europa, a relatively mild-mannered member of the staff of the Green Growing Things plant stores, is secretly the overlord of the Eastern Bloc. While she normally manages her empire from afar using Facetime, every now and then there’s just no substitute for face time. She has spies to debrief, world leaders to intimidate, diplomats to blackmail, and operatives to set in motion. (She’s found that maintaining control works best when you can look someone in the eye, so they know you’re serious when you threaten to spank them in front of their direct reports. Remember this tip next time you have a team meeting. It will make things much more lively, and is a great way to get to experience the prison system from the inside.)
Being one of the most powerful people in the world is not without its challenges. For Europa, that’s scheduling. She has no personal assistant, so like it or not, she has to schedule her entire trip herself.
Use a Template to Schedule Travel
For starters, she has to meet the Minister of Not-so-Silly Walks, check in with Queen Elizabeth about an invitation to the wedding, and meet with her Under-minions in charge of Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. There are about a dozen others also on her list. She only has five vacation days from Green Growing Things and needs to organize all those dozens.
When you’re traveling and planning on a lot of meetings, make a template for yourself beforehand, for each of your travel days. Mark out any pre-scheduled travel, state functions, or mystical rituals that you know will happen at defined times and places. Then divide your remaining free time into time blocks for scheduling.
Block Out Regular Slots
My template for traveling to New York is a standard day template anchored by meetings held over meals, with other meetings in between. Each day is divided into breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, post-dinner. Each of those becomes one time slot, around an hour to two hours, available for scheduling.
Though it’s possible, time-wise, to fit more meetings than that into a day, seven meetings is more than enough to completely fill up almost anyone’s usable brain space. Unless the meetings are ceremonial or truly perfunctory, if you’re going to more than that in a day, you probably aren’t able to add much value after a couple.
If an event needs to be longer than a single time block, just combine two time blocks into one.
Create a Paper Template
You can create a template by grabbing a sheet of paper or a spreadsheet, and creating a grid. Label each column with a day you’ll be traveling. Label each row with a slot. In this case, Europa wisely decides to use my template. Her columns are labeled Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Her rows are labeled breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and post dinner.
Using that template, in one day, Europa can fill in which meetings can go where. The Queen gets Monday breakfast, Minion Poland mid-morning, Minion Hungary for lunch, and Minion Romania for afternoon. She has a lot to discuss with the Minister of Not-so-Silly Walks, however, so she can allocate both dinner and after-dinner-drinks to her meeting with the Minister.