Friday, November 20, 2009

What Can We Do With Wasted Minutes?

Imagine this – you are sitting at your desk, listening to muzak, and waiting for the conference call to start. Tick tock… minutes go by.

Oh, wait – you don’t have to imagine it – it happens every day. Three, maybe five minutes into the scheduled start time, the call will start.

When the leader of the call does finally join, there are introductions and making sure everyone that is required is on the call. Most likely, as this intro process is taking place more people will join, and one of them will ask, “So who is on the call?” and the intros will start all over again.

If you’re the person that usually keeps everyone waiting, I hope you feel at least a little bit guilty.

And if there are charts to be used for the call, I can confidently predict that someone on the call will not be able to find the charts. This could be because they were left off the distribution list (maybe or maybe not by accident), or it could be because the participant is unorganized and drowning in a mass of unread (i.e. red) e-mails.

Again, if this is you, I hope you feel guilty.

Fifteen minutes into a thirty-minute call, the meeting actually begins.

Maybe I’m exaggerating – but not too much.

Now the call has started and twenty minutes in someone new joins. They have a good excuse – they got stuck on another important call. I figure there’s a 50-50 chance this person will listen and catch up. There’s also a 50-50 chance they will disrupt the call and try to start from the beginning – again.

And let's just hope that none of the call participants are on a cell phone in an airport. We all know that if that's the case, there will be unbearable noise on the line until another attendee breaks in and begs the traveling participant to use "star 6" to put their phone on mute.

I hate wasting those minutes, so let’s start a list of things we can do with those extra minutes while we’re waiting, instead of just messaging the other attendees to see whether they are also listening to muzak, or to commiserate on how badly the call is going. I’ll go first:

• Make a cup of hot tea
• Check the stock prices for the day (or if you're feeling brave your 401K)
• Make a grocery list – put cranberries on it
• Catch up on the latest news on the Galleon Insider Trading Scandal
• Check out the latest post on When Fridays Were Fridays, or your favorite blog

Your turn – what do you do with those extra minutes?


Peter Andrews said...

Reading blogs is good if they are as good as this blog. :)
When I write my to-do list, I always have a separate bit for "interstitial work." This is a good example of an interstitual time, and I have topics to dig into in Wikipedia and other places, questions to answer, business cards to enter into a spreadsheet and a host of other small tasks. Because I hate wasting time.

Colette said...

Peter, welcome! I'm glad you enjoy it!
Interstitial -- what a great word!

Anonymous said...

google wave the whole conference & let those that are late replay to catch up &/or time shift your entire schedule and allow the "participants" to get active on their schedule; just need to wrapper a hard and fast deadline for participation (or you're out-of-the-loop, and can catch the next wave).
that way your active participants will be involved with the wave and things can come quickly to conclusion, or an action plan can be derived and put into place before the next round of activities.

bobbiea said...

I don't like to start any task no matter how small because I end up missing something once the conference call does start.

So I waste the same minutes in a more fun way. I play a computer game something I can save and finish later that requires no thinking.

Colette said...

Bobbiea -- that is a good point -- if you get too engrossed in something else you risk becoming too distracted. Sounds like you found a good solution!

Anonymous said...

Clip and file my nails. Otherwise I always seem to notice that they're too long when I don't have the time or privacy to do it.