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Meetings, @&!!$*@ Meetings!

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Meetings, @&!!$*@ Meetings!

In the list of activities that waste time and cause worthless frustration at work, meetings rank near the top, just below performance appraisals and preparing budgets.

There you are, stuck in a meeting you don’t want to attend, thinking of all the work piled up on your desk, while you half listen to someone droning on endlessly about a topic you have no interest in. When the meeting finally ends, less than half the agenda has been completed and everyone gets out their calendars to arrange yet another time to meet.

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Worse still, many meetings seem never to result in any clear decision at all, leaving you wondering why people came together in the first place. Some people spend most of their normal working day in meetings of one kind or another. The only time available to do their own work is either very early in the morning, before the first meeting is scheduled, or late in the evening when they should be relaxing at home.

Why do organizations allow such a continual waste of time and energy?

The first reason, I believe, is simple: rampant distrust.

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  • Top executives don’t trust their subordinates to be competent enough to take full charge of important projects. They therefore require them to involve others in their decisions, in the belief this will guard against expensive errors.
  • Powerful colleagues don’t trust one another not to undermine their position in some way, so they insist on being “kept informed” before decisions are made—usually by demanding a meeting is held, then sending a subordinate who can stop unwanted progress and report back on suspicious activities.
  • Departments trust other departments even less. Same result, times ten.
  • People in general don’t trust others not to say something bad about them behind their backs, so they want to be there to defend themselves. (It’s a waste of time. People will always bad-mouth you, if they want to. They simply find another occasion when you aren’t there.)
  • Auditors don’t trust anyone (except themselves) with money, so they require decisions on expenditure to be made in committee, where others are always watching—often jealously. (It didn’t work too well in recent high-profile corporate corruption cases, did it? And weren’t the auditors involved in those shenanigans too?)
  • It’s always been that way. No one wants to take the risk of doing things differently, because they know there is one area in which they can trust others without question: to pile all the blame on them if anything goes wrong.

The secondary reason is less negative: a belief that many heads are always better than one.

This has some truth when it’s a matter of generating ideas. If the purpose is to get something done, many heads just about always slow things down. It’s amazing how easily a group of people can find delays and problems if they put their collective minds to it.

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Then there’s a earch for consensus: that over-worked concept that appears to produce decisions to everyone’s satisfaction; while usually ensuring the only decision possible is one that offends nobody—because it’s harmless, conventional and unlikely to work anyway. Consensus is nice to have, but it’s rarely essential. If the proposed action is new and unfamiliar, it’s unlikely consensus is even possible in advance.

Many meetings may be unavaoidable, but here’s how to avoid adding to the plague of meetings yourself:

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  • There are only three genuine reasons for a meeting:
  1. You wish to gather ideas and thoughts from those present.
  2. People have concerns about some topic and you are ready to answer them in person and immediately.
  3. A group of people wish to come together to celebrate a success or support one another in adversity.
  • If you have any other reason for holding a meeting, choose a more appropriate way to communicate. For example, merely passing information is typically better handled by memo, e-mail or some other document. If you can’t—or won’t—answer questions right away, collect questions by interview, in writing, or by telephone, and answer them only when you’re ready.
  • If any of these are your true reasons for holding a meeting, cancel it immediately:

    • You always have one. (Now’s the time to stop.)
    • You think people like to have meetings. (Sorry. They don’t.)
    • It’s a good way to set priorities and get everyone motivated. (It isn’t.)
    • It builds team spirit. (It doesn’t.)

    Meetings can be useful, but only if they’re held for good reasons (see above), are well managed, and last not one second longer than is absolutely necessary. In any other circumstances, they’re more likely to be a blight on everyone’s day. Give them up. Everyone will thank you—except those few who like to interfere in other people’s jobs as an excuse for not getting on with their own.

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    P.S. Public and academic bodies are even worse. Only a public body could invent the Steering Committee, to oversee the Working Party, which discusses the eventual reports of one or more Study Groups, which first receive input from a series of sub-committees, which base their findings on expert staff reports almost none of the members understand fully anyway.

    Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

    With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

    Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

    In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

    The easy fundamentals

    First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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    A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

    Here are some examples of strong passwords:
    * i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
    * ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
    * mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

    And not so good examples
    * sammy1234
    * password123
    * christopher

    You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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    Managing your passwords

    I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

    So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

    There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

    Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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    LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

    Upkeep

    You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

    There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

    Alternatives

    You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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    1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
    2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
    3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

    These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

    So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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