Time Travel – And Other Workplace Myths

Yesterday my friend Heather Bussing posted a link to a great little post by Scott Berkun titled ‘What Work Traditions Need To Go Away?‘ There’s loads of good stuff in the post, and in particular the challenge to ‘hour long meetings by default’, caught my eye. Last week I ran a workshop called ‘It’s Good to Talk – So Why Don’t We?’ for clients of the law firm Boyes Turner. The session was a mix of culture, behaviour and method around one of my favourite subjects, having more productive conversations at work.

During the workshop we observed that typically, people allow their diaries to be filled with back to back meetings, from 09:00 to 10:00, from 10:00 to 11:00 and so on, often running right through the day. I’m curious, how do you get from one meeting that finishes at 10:00 to another that starts at 10:00? Without the benefit of time travel, which I’m pretty sure is as yet not invented, you can’t. And at what point during your 09:00 meeting do you mentally disengage from what is going on around you in order to prepare for your 10:00? You can see where this is going, can’t you? Straight to some kind of Outlook Calendar invite infested, counter productive, unhealthy hell. And yet you persist with it. I persist with it. We all persist with it.

During the workshop, the short term fix we proposed was, if meetings are to start on the hour, then they need to finish by five to the next hour, at the absolute latest. Granted – this is a sticking plaster solution to a much deeper slavish cultural attitude, but at least this way, you get five minutes to walk from your 09:00 to your 10:00.

The Workplace Myth theme has also been on Neil Usher‘s mind too. Neil has co-created an wonderful Storify centred on #workplacemyths. It is recommended reading, festooned as it is with humour, agony, cartoons and a wonderfully sad video called Misery Bear Goes To Work.

I love how the separate togetherness of the Internet threads all this wonder together, and I encourage you to check out Scott’s post, and Neil’s emerging Storify. I’d love to hear from you too, if you have the time of course πŸ˜‰

photo credit

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

5 thoughts on “Time Travel – And Other Workplace Myths”

  1. Great post! The one thing I hate doing is going to a meeting unprepared. It can result what could have been a quality conversation just being a waste of time.

    I too suffer from the common condition of over estimating the amount of info/stimulation my brain is capable of in one day and underestimating the amount of time I needed to think.

    Some of the best advice I ever had was to ‘schedule in’ thinking time! and that just because technology allows us to ask a question quickly it doesn’t mean that I have to answer it quickly… if something needs consideration, allow the time to consider it.

    I follow that advice now, no-one has ever questioned it, and it really makes a difference πŸ™‚

  2. First thing is to ask about the need for the meeting itself….
    Second thing is to strip out all unnecessary invitees…
    Third thing is to propose you spend the whole time standing – that will help with attrition..
    Meetings – one of the biggest wastes of time in the universe. But I am sure you can think of others!

    Thanks Doug, and enjoyed the links. Misery Bear eh?

  3. You have picked up on one of my pet hates. The lost productivity due to waiting for everyone to turn up on time for meetings is enormous. Plus quite often when people do turn up 5-10 minutes late they then spend another 5-10 minutes setting up.

    We need to make 45 minutes the default slot for meetings and keep 10-15 minutes free for travel, preparing rooms, setting up, comfort breaks, refreshments and socialising.

  4. I see it as theft. Stealing other people’s time, while we all sit there waiting for the latecomer(s) to sort themselves out. And they often like to give the impression that it is because are so important and stretched so thin. Time management is a key senior skill. People who are perennially late are not suitable for senior roles. (Let’s see that one catch on!)

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