How to survive boring meetings

This is about meetings at work. If it’s a commissioning meeting about you or you’re pitching to someone, you won’t be bored. Every other meeting, you will. Now, clearly, the most useful and productive thing you could do in a typical work meeting is to get out of it. But since you’re lumbered, do this instead.

Next time you’re in one and somebody is droning on about stuff you have no need or use or desire for, make notes as if you have need and use and desire for it all. It passes the time and that’d be enough because anything that gets you through a meeting is worth it.

But along the way, there are going to be things you spot that actually might be interesting. Usually they’re lost in the droning, but you’ve got them there and they’re standing out at you. Also, you will often get lumbered with some task you have to do. Treat these the same way.

Specifically, when you’ve written in the meeting, put this in the left margin next to them: “- – “. Two dashes. Some people draw a little cube. Some just swipe the pen down to make a large stroke before the first word.

Whatever mark you make, make a mark. Whether you’re handwriting on paper or typing into your iPad, make a mark like this and later you can very quickly see what you’ve got to do. You can very quickly pick out the tasks from the droning.

You know I like technology, though, right? I do this in Drafts 4 on my iPad and recently I’ve been using the @ symbol followed by a space, my name and a colon before the task. That sounds tedious and unnecessary but for how there is a free script you can get for Drafts. Press one button and it scoots through all the droning, finds those @ marks and pops each one into my OmniFocus To Do list.

If you have Drafts 4 – er, and also OmniFocus – go get that script here.

Walk out of meetings you don’t need to be in

There’s a true story of Apple’s Steve Jobs telling someone they weren’t needed in this meeting, go away. But there is also the endlessly true endless story of our endlessly ending up in meetings we have no interest in. Worse than no interest, we have no stake in, nobody cares what we think, we don’t care what we think, we are there in body alone.

So go away.

Five or ten minutes into many meetings at Etsy, Eric Fixler, a senior software engineer at the time, would pick up his stuff and just walk out the door, mumbling something about not being useful here. If he had nothing to contribute, he went and found a better use of his, and our, time… teaching me a valuable lesson along the way.

There is no reason to sit in a meeting to which you add no value. Everyone invited should be there for a reason, and if you are there for a reason, you should be actively contributing, regardless of role or seniority. We hired you for your experience and insight, not to be a wallflower. If you can’t actively contribute to this particular discussion, there should be nothing wrong with leaving. We certainly don’t want to be wasting anyone’s time. Everyone at a startup has a million things to do.

Thus was born The Fixler, a simple and powerful rule: If you are sitting around a conference table and your presence isn’t necessary nor adds value to the others in the room, you may get up, say ‘Fixler’, and walk out without explanation or penalty.

Pull a Fixler – Jesse Hertzberg, Title Needed (6 February 2015)

Read the full piece. Also, hat tip to 99U for finding and analysing this.

Go somewhere boring to write

I’ve had recommendations via friends-of-the-site before, I’m having a recommendation from wife-of-the-blog.

That sounds dreadful. That sounds like a 21st Century version of phrases like “her indoors”. My wife’s name is Angela Gallagher. You and I are having a recommendation from Angela which is this piece she got from traveller Chris Guillebeau:

Don’t go to paradise to get something done. Go to Bali, or any place like Bali, for lots of reasons. (I went there for a birthday by myself.)

But if you want to find a place to write, don’t go to an interesting place. Go somewhere where you can withdraw from the world, fully free of engagement. Go somewhere where there’s nothing to do.

If You Want to Write a Book, Go to a Boring Place – Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity (7 July 2014)

Do read more but don’t just read more: delve on in to his The Art of Non-Conformity, and when you’re fully engrossed, remember to thank Angela. I can pass messages on.