No laptops at meetings


Hi all, oh my beloved typists 🙂

Please stop your furious finger activities for less than a couple of minutes minutes and pay attention to the following rant.

I understand that you are all super committed to get done as much work as possible but please let me stress that meetings are not the right place to optimize your time carrying over multiple tasks.

Meetings require your full attention and your active participation.

I still have to meet one single person able to do that while working on a second or even a third thing. I understand that there are people which are particularly bad (as I am) to deal with multi tasking while some of you leave me breathless for your ability to make it seem almost a smooth process.

Nonetheless, none has such a brain that’s really able to do it.

You may be tricked to think you can because you get used to switch very fast between contexts. The increasingly lower level of attention often required by meetings allows you to get through them by only grabbing the 20% of the conversation. But that’s just an illusion, as many studies have demonstrated.

This means that every time you bring your laptop to a meeting and do your own stuff, you are not giving your 100%. This has some evident and many subtly hidden costs. I won’t go over an analysis of these costs here but the result of the equation is that you waste more team time than you can actually put together with your individual work.

The direct effect of this terrible practice is to make meetings longer, less effective and decrease their perceived (and real) value. From there, things can only get worse.

So, instead of simply keeping on with this intimate relationship with our electronical friend, why don’t we try to understand the problem and try to solve it once and for all? I truly believe that doing so we could strongly improve the quality of our (working) lives.

I think the starting point could be to start answering a simple question:

why do you feel this compelling need to type when you are supposed to do something else?

Some options I can think of:

  • because truth is that I don’t belong to that meeting but since I’m there..
  • because everyone does it, so it’s ok for me to do it
  • because I have more fun with chats than talking with someone in person
  • because I don’t care about what the others have to say
  • because we spend 1 hour to say what should be said in 10 minutes
  • because I’m shy
  • because I have better things to do
  • because the company requires me to be available to answer questions all the time
  • because I feel ashamed to admit I am not able to manage my own time and meetings are useful to catch up
  • because most of the meetings take place in the few hours I can work with XYZ who’s working in a different timezone
  • because it’s a convenient way to log time in a container none will complain about
  • because it’s not clear to me that taking decisions is actually a working activity

It’s clear that in some rare cases few of attendants have to deal with unpredicted contingencies of maximum importance. What I don’t believe instead is that all of us live in a continuous state of emergency.

Can this be solved? Read my opinionated and verbose point of view in a previous blog post on how to Make your meetings more effective. For now it’s important to start becoming aware of the issue. The first obvious step is to stop bringing your laptop with you in meetings. Do it and you’ll see how things change naturally without the need for you to put any additional special effort in it.

And don’t cheat! Smartphones are at least as bad if not worse!! 😀


2 thoughts on “No laptops at meetings

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