Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Meetings are Work

2021-05-08 — Michael Haupt

Reading these two postings about time management (which is a hot topic for me) and tooling for that, I can conclude that I like the approach very much.

There was one of those cringeworthy moments though when I read this passage (emphasis mine): "Once I became aware of how much time is taken by meetings, I developed a strong aversion against accepting them. I realized how they cut my day into small blocks that are mostly not even worth starting something valuable. It's important to know when you have time to do your actual work."

This was written by a software engineer. I acknowledge how much engineering work - "coding" - benefits from clean, hard, sheer focus and how much it suffers from context switches. Badly scheduled meetings in the middle of what could otherwise be focus periods impose context switches and harm focus. Point very well taken.

Having said that, I disagree, fervently so, with the take this engineer has on how they regard meetings, and how they have decided to feel about dealing with invitations.

There isn't a clean-cut dichotomy between meetings and "actual work". There just isn't. Meetings are work. It's a different kind of work that happens in meetings, granted, but it's still work. Refinements and retrospectives are typical examples of meetings where engineers do important work - actual work - that's not coding.

Meetings aren't the real problem. The real problem is when someone attends - or is made to attend - a meeting where they neither bring value nor take any value with them. I know there are too many of those.

This engineer's reaction is to develop a strong "aversion against accepting" meetings. That's a rabbit hole we shouldn't allow ourselves to go down. The philosophy shared in the two postings has, at its core, the idea of owning your time. Perfect! Now, that ownership is best expressed by defending it in a constructive way, rather than going all grumpy and blocking all of the calendar against meetings. If there's a bad meeting, speak up. Point out how you're neither getting anything out of it, and how you don't feel you can add any value there. If the meeting can't be improved, there should be an agreement that you no longer need to attend.

Often, meetings have an unclear purpose, or a stated purpose that's not lived. Both of these are valid points to speak up about. No one likes to waste time.

Tags: work