‘Yep, give me 2 minutes, I’ll be right with you.’

Except that it never is 2 minutes. In Ireland, a couple minutes really does mean somewhere between 2 and 7, since the Irish world ‘cupla’ means ‘few’. When an Irish person says I’ll be a coupla minutes, you know what – and when – they mean.

In England we don’t have that luxury, so when someone says two minutes, or a couple of minutes, or 2 seconds, or 2 ticks, they never mean that, which is frustrating to the recipient because you feel like something else is more important than you, and you’re being put off because your priority is not theirs, when sometimes you need them for 10 seconds.

I used to work for a guy who made a point of being over precise in his expectation setting. He would say things like, ‘I’ll come back to you in 17 minutes,’ ‘I’ll be back at the hotel in 12 minutes, please order me a Cab Sauv.’ or such like. When he said it there was a hint of irony, but it served a useful purpose. More often than not he was there within a minute of the expected time he’d set. He would especially do this if he knew or picked up that you were pressured with one of your own priorities.

And do you know what? The useful purpose this ploy served was that it helped you, in turn, manage your time better.

It’s not always possible in the heat of battle, but it really helps others when you set a clear idea of when you’re available for someone who needs you. And if you can beat that time, thereby over-delivering on your promise, everybody wins.

Advertisements