Chapter 6 | Section 6.1 | Business Compartmentalization
Let’s use a business setting first. You walk out of your 9am meeting with your boss with four deliverables that he needs by end of day and you guess that those deliverables will amount to three plus hours of work and you have a couple other meetings yet today… Get your “this is going to suck, and I don’t have time for this bull shit” speech completed in your head before you actually land at your desk. Don’t forget to smile and say hi to that person you are walking by who you still don’t know by their first name… Evaluate the low hanging fruit and if you haven’t been handed a priority on the four items then start on the least time intensive one so you can try and finish it before your 10:30am meeting.
You walk into your 10:30am meeting only having partially completed the first of your four tasks your boss is banking on from you by COB. As you walk in, you look up, say hello and ask how everyone is doing. Your mind doesn’t even know it, but you are preparing to go all Luke Skywalker and start dropping Jedi mind tricks on yourself. You actively participate in the “how’s the weather”, “anyone have big weekend plans”, and even listen to the guy that wants to complain about life (but you don’t use it as an excuse to discuss how hard the rest of your day is going to be). Everyone has finally arrived and the idle chit chat is drawing to a close.
The organizer of the meeting starts off with a level setting and/or a recap from the last meeting. Listen attentively, even if it is Frank who you can’t stand and whose most impressive business skill set is the ability to fart on command at happy hour. Take notes of questions that pop up in your head while they are talking and if they aren’t answered once they are done then ask them. You don’t have to lead or take over the meeting, but depending on your personality type and the ability of the person running it you may well end up doing so. Before you know it you are focused on solving this groups problem. Not your own problems that are going to be waiting for you back at your desk.
If you don’t understand something wait until a pause in conversation and ask for clarity. Chances are others needed it too. And the leaders of the group will likely respect you for wanting to understand something as they know you can’t help them in the long run if you don’t. There is of course a line to walk here as you can’t stop them every other sentence and if it seems you are the only person lacking clarity on it then addressing it after the meeting can be a better approach.
If you aren’t going to address it with the group right then, make note of it. This is as much to keep you busy and keep yourself from glazing over as it is to remember to get that answer. If you don’t do this and you are lost then your mind wanders back to your own personal workload… you get aggravated as to why you are in this meeting, and any input you put forth has a tinge of frustration. Or the group asks you for input and you haven’t even been paying enough attention to be able to provide any.
Be courteous in conversation and remember that this group isn’t why you have 4 deliverables today and they all have their things pulling at them too. There is no reason to be short with them. And if you help this group solve this problem efficiently and devote your time in that meeting to a resolution than you might take a 1 hour meeting and turn it into a 45 minute meeting. Not just for yourself, but for all 6 people sitting in that crowded, improperly ventilated, overbooked sweat house your company so kindly provided you.
Before you know it you are out of the meeting and headed back to your desk. The 45 second walk back serves as a quick planning session with reminders to yourself of the order of your tasks and by the time you sit back down you are ready to rock after checking to make sure there isn’t urgent email.
There are times that there is just too much on your plate, you need help, and/or you need to vent. In reality though, a lot of people turn a full day into a failed day by thinking that way. For example:
- You have 8 hours in a business day.
- You see you have 2 hours of meetings today.
- You know that email will take at least 1 hour.
- Your boss asks for 4 hours of tasks to be completed you had no idea you’d need to do today
The reality is that only 7 of your 8 business hours are accounted for. Most people struggle to get started, constantly evaluate the “what ifs” of if more work comes in etc. and almost paralyze yourself from being able to complete the very feasible workload that has been placed in front of you. Not because it is more than you are capable of, but because they didn’t know they were walking into this when they rolled into work today and had plans of getting a head start on your monthly reports etc.
By compartmentalizing you can step back and accomplish the first step of evaluating their workload as a whole and determining a plan. Then you can focus on the first task at hand vs. focusing on the realization you have more workload to complete and meetings that are going to get in the way etc.