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You’ve had a productive day, and it is quitting time. You need to be home by 6:00 so you can cook, eat, and get the kids to their school event that starts at 7 PM.  You decide to leave at 5:30 to achieve that goal.

  • It is 5:30.  You hop in your car and head off for your 25-minute ride.  When you get on the highway – bam – there is unusually slow traffic ahead of you.  You sit in that traffic for 5 minutes and start to feel annoyed.  Now another 10 minutes go by.  Nothing you can do but sit and wait for the traffic to clear.  You will be late.  You run into the house 25 minutes later than expected.


  • It is 5:30, and your meeting is scheduled to end now.  The facilitator brings up another topic.  They ask you a question that you know you should answer… so you do.  Five minutes overtime now, you start to feel annoyed.  Now another question comes up, and another 10 minutes go by, and you’re irritated.  You will be late.   You run into the house 25 minutes later than expected.

I don’t think the experience of a traffic jam is different from a long running meeting, do you?  

I know you all know how frustrating it can be when something unexpected comes up and uses time you haven’t planned for!  

Don’t be a traffic jam!  Time box your meetings.  Start and end on time.


Check-in with the meeting goal throughout the meeting and keep the discussion relevant.  (Make a note of any topic not relevant and put it in meeting minutes to discuss later.)

Tell people at the beginning that you need to leave right on time.  It isn’t at all necessary to say why.

When there are 5 or 10 minutes left, remind everyone that there are only a few minutes left. Restate the meeting goal and ask if it’s been achieved.

Times up?  Say, ” Thank you, everyone, I need to get to my next commitment.”  And leave. 

Times up, and someone asks a new question.  Say, “Thanks for the question.   I want to be respectful of everyone’s time.  Would you email me that question? I will get back to you with an answer.  Thanks, everyone; I need to run.”  Then leave.

You don’t need to be the leader of the meeting to do this. Any participant can.

What other techniques do you use to avoid verbal traffic jams?

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