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The True Scourge

Many people believe that email is the scourge of our modern life and there is some truth to this but I do not believe that for many of us; especially of those in the middle management layers that this is the real scourge.

The real scourge is Online Diaries; generally Outlook but all are evil.

When I started my career all those years ago; I had part share in secretary who managed my diary, if you wanted to book a meeting with me, you would generally ask Audrey who would check that I was free and would apply common sense.

1) She would not accept a meeting booking when I was on leave.

2) She would not accept a meeting booking when I was already booked.

3) She would not accept a back-to-back meeting booking, especially in different buildings and would always make sure that I had time to get from one meeting to another.

4) She would generally ensure that I actually had time for a break and time to do some work during the day.

Unfortunately these days; even staff at my ‘exalted level’ do not warrant a secretary or PA and my diary is on line for all to see and so people feel happy to

1) Book meetings when I am on leave

2) Book meetings when I am already attending another meeting; I have an example this week when I am in six meetings simultaneously allegedly.

3)Book me solid for a whole day with no time eat, breath or think and seem to expect me to be able to teleport across campus.

4)Leave me no time to do any work

In fact meetings have proliferated to the extent that they are meaningless. Online diaries have made it easy to invite a cast of thousands; book even more meetings, book meetings at the last minute and generally destroy the working day of many.

Meetings are now badly run with no agenda, no minutes and often over-run causing even more running about the campus. There are now so many meetings, that most places have a shortage of meeting rooms and hence meetings are now run in rest areas, canteens and anywhere else that can be found.

So it is not email that is the scourges; it is the modern meeting which is the true time-soak and scourge of many.


  1. gchapman says:

    I was booked for 6 hours yesterday. Two vendor meetings, 3 internal meetings. I had 10 minutes for lunch and maybe an hour to get “work” done. It’s gotten to the point where the only real work I can get done is after work.

    1. Martin Glassborow says:

      I am absolutely certain that the proliferation of meetings is one the major reasons for the length of hours many of us end up working. I don’t tend to count the time I spend on my email at home as working but really it is.

      Most meetings are completely unproductive and a great way of wasting many hours.

  2. Ed says:

    I would have to say my favourite is the daily lunchtime conference call. But I also dislike the “scatter shot” meeting – inviting everyone you can think of, and hoping someone appropriate will attend.

  3. I agree, meetings are generally poorly run, and unproductive in many cases. However, I do have some tips for those who “live by the calendar” like I do that seem to help.

    1. Don’t make your calendar available to be read by everyone. Just publish your fee/busy time so that people can find out when you’re available. If there are specific folks that need to be able to see the actual contents of your calendar, you can just make it available to them, but I try to make that list as short as possible.

    2. Book a reoccurring meeting at lunch time so you have time to eat every day. Sure, that doesn’t mean that people won’t TRY to book a meeting during lunch, but at least if all they can see is free/busy time they have to ask first.

    3. Add travel time to each of the meetings you accept and make sure you put it both before and after the meeting. This one is especially important for those of us who have to travel some distance between meetings. I know it’s tempting to accept that con-call while you’re in the car, but that should be the exception, not the rule.

    4. Block off time in your calendar to get actual work done. Then when people go to schedule a meeting with you, those blocks of time show as “busy”.

    Of course noe of this fixes anything when it comes to the actual contents of your meetings, that’s a whole different story. Personally, I always ask to see an agenda prior to accepting a meeting invite. Sometimes people get the hint … sometimes they don’t.

  4. Ewan says:

    I totally agree about the mess that is meeting scheduling, it really has gone beyond funny in so many companies.

    I heard about this web application for appointment scheduling just yesterday and I think there’s a huge opportunity for someone to build the same system for enterprises, probably as an integration into Exchange.

    You should be able to define simple rules about your calendar, and the software should automatically reject all appointments that don’t fit those rules.

    Fundamentally though, I suppose it’s not a technology problem but a people problem – someone will have seen you were already in 1 meeting, and double-booked you regardless. If they couldn’t of done it via your calender, they would’ve just sent you an email and expected you to turn up, telling everyone else at the meeting “Well I did invite him, I sent him an email…”

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