How a Boiling Cuppa Joe Solved a Problem

short meetingsMeeting with busy people is tough. You just need a couple of minutes.  Either to run an idea by a colleague to get feedback or perhaps to get quick supervisor approval on an aspect of a project before you can move on. Trouble is, the person you need to meet with is either wildly busy, frequently out of the office or due to the nature of their job, moves about the office so much that catching him is a challenge.

Not getting that time can be disappointing or frustrating – and can also affect your ability to get things done. There must be a way to deal with this problem. Of course there is. Me waste your time? Never.

One option is to set up regular twice-a-day, 8-minute meetings with this busy colleague. Collect all of your questions/discussion points in a folder and then cover them all at once.  That works in the right situation, but often you don’t need regular daily meetings and holding the questions even for half a day would slow down progress to an unacceptable level.

Here’s another option…

Recently I met with Tim Rodgers of Rodgers/Townsend. Jill Kramer – evidently a person with a keen power of observation – came up with a great solution.  They’re in the creative business and so count on a lot of internal collaboration – often involving Tim.  But he fits the description of being in a lot of places throughout the day, so can be difficult to catch. But there’s one place where people have a good chance of finding him.  At the microwave.  See, Tim likes his coffee HOT. Some might say scalding – so he visits the microwave regularly to give it a zap.  Thanks to Jill, people in the office are now alert to this and can get that one or two minutes they need while Tim is waiting for his boiling beverage. And everyone is productive.

Here’s how to make this work for you.

Identify the person in your office who you need to interact with several times a day. Have a quick chat with that person. (You may have to schedule it this time.) Tell them the story about Rodgers/Townsend and how they make it work in their office and figure out what solution works for you.  It’s an important step to have this conversation so you don’t end up an inadvertent stalker, constantly showing up in this person’s space without warning. Which would be as creepy as Juan Valdez suddenly appearing in your kitchen.  With his burro.


  1. Jan Roberg on February 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    That’s me! I used to get coffee every morning at 10:15. I knew that the “guys” made coffee then so I’d go grab some when it was fresh. We would stop, have some coffee and chat about our day. I was basically after the coffee and a little social time. When I left that job, I had to write a job description for my replacement. They made me put our “morning coffee meetings” into the job. It never felt like work to me but we actually got a lot accomplished during our “meetings.”

  2. Mary Kutheis on February 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    That’s great. Getting work done that doesn’t feel like work is a good day indeed. Thanks, Jan!

  3. Marsia Geldert-Murphey on February 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I really appreciate this creative solution to a very common problem. I did exactly as you suggested with a very busy manager I worked for, I had an electronic folder that I posted questions or points of discussion as they came up and when we would get together I would go through my list or in a pinch I would email my list to him, I know he worked late from home based on the time on emails I rec’d. I found that he typically made the effort to meet with me because our time together was so productive and efficient and he knew I was making an effort and not just complaining. I would often hear people grumble they couldn’t get any time with him so I told them what I was doing, several others followed suit, it was amazing the transformation in morale and productivity.

  4. Mary Kutheis on February 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Wonderful that you figured this out on your own and then were able to share it with the grumblers. Nice work!