Idle minds

relaxationDecember 21. With twelve days of vacation stretched in front of me, visions of organizational grandeur peppered my thoughts. I had closets to clean, documents to organize, and rooms to conquer. I finally had time to attack the accumulating detritus of domesticity, and I would prevail!

January 1, 5pm. Still in my pajamas, I looked around my house, blinking as if just waking up from a long sleep. Except for a few newly added deposits of Christmas gifts littering the landscape, my house looked the same as it had eleven days prior. I hadn’t accomplished a single thing on my list–nor had I tried.

In the remaining hours of the evening, I managed to dismantle a Christmas tree; wash, dry, and fold three loads of laundry; make dinner; and resolve a couple of nagging work issues. I accomplished more between 5 and midnight that evening that I had during the cumulative rest of my vacation. I’m ashamed of myself.

I realized in hindsight that I had been exhibiting this behavior for quite some time. Although I would be appropriately productive during the work week, weekends would come and go with only a last-minute flurry of activity on Sunday night. It was as if, when faced with the looming prospect of a very real “something to do,” my brain would suddenly switch into let’s-get-something-done mode. When faced with a blank canvas of time however, it would retreat into limbo.

This isn’t a new concept for me (for proof, read Do something from September 2011). Even so, I continue to relearn the lesson which I conveniently push to the recesses of my mind until I trip over it on idle days and fall on my face. As much as I crave a life (or a few days) of leisure, I find that I need a little bit of pressure to keep me moving forward. I need not just a goal, but also a deadline. Margaret Thatcher knew it, too:

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it. –Margaret Thatcher

Do something, Tammy. Do something.

Note: Thanks to Kayla Cruz for her post, Being Overwhelmed, which got me thinking about all of this again.

That dirty word

Ah, meetings. I could rant all day about them. I sit in too many; they go on too long; little gets done. Time management and focus issues seem to be the two driving factors, often combined with a liberal dose of posturing. Consider this if you don’t believe me: the following passage was listed as a requirement in a bid specification for one of my projects.

2.b. Do not raise issues at Progress meetings that do not involve other participants at that meeting, and that could be handled more efficiently at the level of the Vendor’s coordination with its own subvendors and suppliers.

Translation: stay on topic (focus) and don’t waste anyone’s time (time management).

Holy smokes. Since when do we have to spell that out? Shouldn’t that be common sense? Although I was flabbergasted to find this as part of the spec, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was, Oh please, oh please, can’t we apply this to all meetings, everywhere?

I’ve been thinking about this for days. It has stuck with me so hard that I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I dreamed about it last night. (Please, no inferences about my lack of social life!) I woke up thinking that perhaps I could make a new career for myself as a meeting facilitator. I could hire myself out to various organizations just to lead meetings. As an outsider with no personal involvement in the organization or the topic, I could impartially keep the meeting on point. I wouldn’t accept the job without an agenda and a list of goals or necessary decisions to result from the meeting.

Actually, if more meetings had those items up front–an agenda and goals–they might be a lot more productive on their own. They wouldn’t need me, but then again, I already have a job.

Anyone have a meeting nightmare you’d like to share?