Last time I wrote about figuring out working hours, and allocating time appropriately, rather than ‘staying till the job is done’ — there are always more equations to write in mathematics! This time I wanted to write about the idea, perpetrated too often by those in senior positions, that working longer is somehow better for… someone? We can, and should push back against such directives: the only acceptable orders are, of course, for dry white toast, four fried chickens… and a coke! (Oh, sure, the quote doesn’t appear until midway through, but who is going to cut John Lee Hooker? You, you?)
We get hit with plenty of administrative tasks: “this will only take 20 minutes”, “can I just see you for a second on this?” or “I know we are 10 minutes overtime, but this is important” — no, my dear friend, you think it is important. And it may well be important to you, but I’m an adult, and I plan my day, and if I planned for this meeting to finish on time (shocking!) so that I could take a 10-minute stroll before the next meeting, then that is important to me. We can’t be just deploying administrative tasks, givin’ ‘em out like candy (LINK 3) and expect people to play along.
It gets to the stage where people are apologising for leaving a meeting only 5 minutes after its scheduled finishing time. Surely the chair should be apologising for having it run over by 5 minutes? You’ve got two jobs when you are the chair of a committee: keep the agenda running to time and make sure everyone gets to speak. Easy: like taking candy from a baby.
One tip to guard against running over time is for everyone, as in everyone, to give brief answers, or, better yet, no answer at all. Most of the time the talk is inconsequential anyway. So why have the meeting? Exactly! We have it only because someone says we need to have it. But supposing you hadn’t had it?
So, then, one tool in the shed of reducing the overall burden of work is to do less work! That is, scrap thing that don’t need to happen, or reduce other items to an absolute minimum. If the budget report is “The budget report is attached, with a five-point summary on the front. Any objections? No? Good. Done.” I suppose there are two kinds of meetings (or rather, both kinds!) ones where people talk and talk, and ones where things get done. You fellows can talk in your own time, I’ve got to get back to work, or blog posts, or something! I’ll expand on this reduction in workload next time with an all-out assault on vacuous phrases — to arms!