Once upon a time, all I did was coaching people. I did it from home, sometimes putting makeup on, sometimes winging it, sometimes replying to my emails in my pyjamas.

AH, the joys of being self-employed.

Now things have changed and I have a lot of people to meet, a lot of collaborations to work on, ideas to bounce off projects to kick off – sometimes Skype just doesn’t cut it.

Especially in a city like London, where people think that the only way to seal deals is to toast with a green juice.

Whether you are looking to streamline your meetings or your Skype calls, it’s important to optimise the time you spend with other people and stick to a specific schedule.

I noticed that especially when organising Skype calls from home, a 30-minute appointment could stretch to a 1.30hr debate – which would definitely not benefit the rest of my working day. This is why I summarised a few points I have seen over the past few months:

Pick your meeting days

Things change depending on my schedule, but I still pick days for ‘meetings’ and ‘content creation’, so that I can have 1-2 of pure creative bliss. Something really important when creating a meeting schedule is to calculate the necessary work ahead of time so you can come to the meeting prepared.

Do everything on your end to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, and you have all the information you need for a quick and effective follow up. Because 80% of the outcome comes from a follow-up.

Set time limits at the outset

Have you ever had a meeting run on for much longer than you originally anticipated? As I mentioned, my 1.30hr debates taught me a lot about that. Usually, the best way to create boundaries is to set them straight away: instead of scheduling a meeting for 2:30 pm, schedule it for 2:30-3:00 pm. Set expectations for the person and make sure you specify that the meeting will last 30, 45, 60 minutes.

Have a goal, a purpose, a reason

Best time-saving tip? Know the reason WHY you set the meeting in the first place. I tend to quickly discard meetings set up to ‘catch up’ or ‘talk about potential opportunities’.

Before taking time out of my schedule I want to make sure either of the parties has a clear idea of a few ways of working together, helping each other or collaborating.

It may sound a bit forced to some, but I find that having a clear purpose keeps things tighter and makes meetings much more effective.

Be a savvy planner

This point covers two important aspects of meetings: you want to make sure you factor in the travelling time of your meetings, as well as making sure you plan your meetings so that you can make the most of your travel time.

It sounds obvious to some of us, but most times even was in West London on Tuesday, I’d still come down on Wednesday to make a potential client happy.

With a tighter time schedule and a lot of fingers in a lot of (raw) pies, I make sure that if I cycle to the other side of town, I am meeting as many people as possible. Sometimes I even call out for meetings, just to check if anyone is interested in talking business.

These are my main tips when it comes to meetings, calls and generally engaging with prospects. Learn how to make most of that time that you’ll gain from taking fewer meetings.