Monday, December 14, 2009

Luddites unite! OR My super-boring meeting disrupted the space/time continuum

I was in a meeting the other day that lasted TWO HOURS. It was terrible. I’m sure whatever was being said in the meeting was oh-so-informative but whenever a meeting goes over 40 minutes I have a hard time focusing one second longer. There is a little “attention span” gauge in by brain and after 40 minutes the needle hits “E,” the little light goes on and my brain shuts down.

Part of the problem was I expected the meeting to last an hour but it lasted two. That is like going to the dentist for a cleaning and then getting both of your legs amputated!

I don't know whether it's better or worse to have a clock in plain sight at a boring meeting. In this case there were no windows to the outside and I had a clear view of the clock. After a while I started to think, The clock has stopped. It must have. I’ve been in this meeting for at least four whole weeks but the clock is only showing two hours. What is going on? Maybe time is simply standing still. The sheer boringness of this meeting has torn a hole in the space/time continuum and we are stuck in this conference room forever! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(That is the sound my brain makes when I’m in meetings for over 40 minutes: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)

One thing that unnecessarily prolongs meetings is the fact that most people can’t edit themselves. A lot of professionals don’t know the meaning of “concise,” “to the point” or even “short and sweet.” Some professionals just love to hear the sound of their own voice, over and over and over, whether anyone else is listening or not. They don't care. It's like a drug for them: the more they hear of themselves, the more they want to hear of themselves. Some people can express one simple idea over and over for up to 45 minutes at a given stretch. This idea could realistically be expressed in one sentence minimum or one paragraph maximum.

People should have to prepare written statements that conform to these guidelines, or we could have on of those little plastic hourglasses that used to come with board games at every meeting. When someone starts to talk the hourglass gets flipped over and the sand starts to run. When the sand runs out after one minute the speaker’s turn would be over. If they hadn’t stopped speaking of their own volition they would get cut off mid-sentence by someone else and/or shot with a paintball gun.

I would also bring a picture of people beating a dead horse and when people start droning on and on I will point to it and say, “See this? This is you. Shame on you.”

Along these same lines, office e-mails are way too long and I most certainly do not have all day to read wordy e-mails. Call me a neo-Luddite or a Protestant Luddite or whatever but I hate Twitter. I am not so vain as to suppose that people care to read whatever ridiculous thing I am doing at any given moment, nor am I so bored that I care to read what ridiculous thing someone else is doing at any given moment. However, I think Twitter is onto something with the 140 characters thing. I wish they could make all the office e-mails that way. If your e-mail is over 140 characters long you can’t send it until you pare that mess down.

I’ll stop now. I don't want to beat a dead horse.