Thursday, March 5, 2015

Meetings are not my favorite

We'll make this quick

No, you won't.  You'll drag me into a room, you'll hook up your computer to the AirPlay. You'll answer 'one quick email' before the presentation starts. Someone will go get coffee.  We'll sit there. What was a 10:00am meeting is now a 10:07am meeting.  10:12am. Okay great we're getting started. I think.  Right?  Okay yes it's ten fifteen and we're all here and now the meeting is starting.  Awesome.

One of my favorite things to do while I'm at work is to actually work.  I like it.  I'm good at it.  I enjoy using my hands (yeah, I'm a prick, I'm not doing anything particularly manly, I know) to actually build something.  In my case it's web applications.  Whatever it may be, I like to sit there, nose to the grindstone, and put my mind through it's paces. I get off on that.  It's my favorite.

My least favorite thing is a day when I don't feel like I've gotten anything accomplished.  A day when I feel like 'Damn it, I could have done so much more today' is a terrible day to me.  It's a loss.  As that repetitive ad on NPR keeps telling me every morning 'Steve Jobs said our most precious resource is obviously time,' I don't want to waste it.  I want to be able to sit down at the end of every day and have meaningful accomplishments I can look at.  Problems I solved.  Shit I got done.

Meeting Monsters

When the inevitable Meeting Monster sneaks up, he threatens to take that away from me.  Is this meeting critical to my job function?  Is this meeting going to improve what I'm doing?  And maybe this isn't all about me: maybe you need my help.  Is this meeting going to help you do your job better through something I can offer you?  Will I feel like I accomplished something by aiding you?  If the answer to these questions is 'Yes' then okay.  Swell.  Let me grab my mug and we'll do the damn thing.

If the answer to these questions is 'Well...' or 'I think so?' or 'Shut the hell up!'' then can I please, pretty please, skip this meeting? You don't need me, I don't need this meeting, let me do what I'm getting paid to do.

If I am sitting at my desk being productive, really killing it, pushing out work that would make Da Vinci cry tears of joy, then I don't want to get pulled into a meeting to discuss paperwork formatting or whether or not the copy is correct on the About Us page.  Someone just make a decision on that and we'll implement.  Never in the history of websites has there needed to be an All Hands meeting on which headshots we should use.

My John Mantra. Or Johntra.

On my team I try to keep my meeting style to this simple concept: "Is this meeting moving the business forward?" There can be no wheel-spinning, no jawing, no contemplating theoreticals. Are we making concrete important decisions or solving important problems? That's the goal. We should walk out of a meeting energized and smarter and ready to crush our next task.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Sometimes we just need to sit down and shoot the shit and chat about whatever.  Open forum-style.  The brain can't run at 100% for 8 hours a day every day.  It will literally, and I mean this in a very scientific way, melt out of your ears.  You need breaks in the monotony.  You need to hit the reset button.

But in my opinion and in my experience, scheduled meetings are almost never the way to do this.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Read books. Feel like shit. Repeat.

They are those things made out of sheets of paper

I've been reading a hell of a lot lately and it made me want to write. I guess much in the same way that you watch people play sports on TV and so you go outside and throw a ball around. Except in this case it can be done from the comfort of a chair I bought at Ikea.

This reading tear I've been on has run the gauntlet from Oscar Wilde to Charles Bukowski to Jhumpa Lahiri.  One of which is one of the most important thinkers of the late 1800's (according to me) and one of them is the filthy version of Kurt Vonnegut and one of them is named Jhumpa.  It's always a good idea in my opinion to get your paws on whatever you can and read it.  50 Shades of Grey? Fine, whatever.  Hamlet?  Go get 'em, tiger.

When I'm reading, one thing that I love to do involuntarily is to assume that the writer is speaking directly to me or about me.  Oscar Wilde is talking about how when we're young we are beautiful and incorruptible and have the world by the balls.  That's great! That's me!  Bukowski is telling me that no matter how much of a miserable asshole I am, as long as I'm pretty good at something people will always be drawn to me. Excellent! Carte blanche!

Say goodbye to your ability to think

I think my generation and younger are losing our attention spans.  Especially for books.  We read tweets that are 140 characters or less (no exceptions!).  Facebook posts are often no more than Instagram posts: photos of something with a little blurb.  We have our faces glued to our cell phones.  Trivia Crack.  Candy Crush.  Goddam Snapchat.  How often do you see people on the bus or on the bench reading a book?  You actually probably remember those people because of how subtly out-of-place they seem.  Who the hell is this nerd reading a book?  Ding! You've been invited to play FarmVille!

When you're reading something interesting you're experiencing something interesting.  You're learning what it's like to be an older, alcoholic writer who is terrible with women but makes it to bed fairly often.  You're learning what it's like to be a spoiled dilettante in 1891 London.  When you're playing Trivia Crack you're learning that the Broncos won the Superbowl in 1999.  Neat.

So what?

So you want, if you've read this far, for me to give you a moral of the story.  The moral of the story is - predictably - pick up a book.  Shut off your television.  Give Netflix a break.  Take a breather.  Let your mind do some of the work for you.  You'll thank me later.

Here, read these:

  1. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  2. The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  4. Women by Charles Bukowski - Don't tell your mom you read this
  5. The Godfather by Mario Puzo - It's better than the movie(s)
Read two books and call me in the morning.  I personally am going to go watch Season 3 of House of Cards. Peace.