We humans want to believe that all we do is make the world around us better. If we get lots of us in a room, something great will happen, right? Not exactly. Our egos are powerful things, and, without proper precautions, it can lead to a complete waste of time. Here are five of the most common behaviors that can waste an hour of everyone’s time.
There’s a famous Dr. Seuss story about these two animals who are bragging about how great their senses are, and it ends with an earthworm claiming it could look so far around the world that it could see these two blowhards’ asses. The earthworm, with its vision, describes the minutiae of projects planned to start next year, and will do so at the drop of a hat.
The earthworm is bored with the unsolved problems of today. They know they are solvable, and don’t want to do the hard work of actually solving them. They want the new exciting world of tomorrow, which is full of ideas and no surprise implementation details. They want to feel smart, and working through hypothetical problems feels a lot like real work, but it’s really not.
If you find yourself being the earthworm, remember that being visionary is good, but this sort of vision involves getting into detail about decisions that really should be deferred until a much later date. It is visionary to note that the system could have this feature after we’re built out its core functionality. It is not visionary to actually spec out and design that feature in a meeting for what is happening in the next sprint. Getting into the minutiae of how that might work today is going to benefit nothing but your ego. It feels really good to figure out how to solve a problem, especially when the surprises of reality can be left out.
The loaf is on their phone or otherwise disengaged from the meeting. But, for some reason, the loaf doesn’t have the guts to walk out and actually do something productive. The loaf will catch the keyword for what they’re interested in, and make everyone else listen to a re-explanation of what has already been said when they can’t piece together the context around their trigger words.
The loaf believes that they have so much brain power that they can actually participate in a conversation while simultaneously playing clash of clans on their cellphone. They do not. Humans consciousness doesn’t have all the kinks of multithreading worked out.
If you find yourself becoming the loaf, remember that we’re all busy, and it’s ok to politely leave a meeting by asking “is there anything you need from me here today? Otherwise i need to get back”. It shows you have respect for your time, and even if it feels a little rude, it’s way better than wasting our time.
The context free talker
The context free talker starts immediately into wherever they are in a story. “it’s starting to work” is literally all they may say about what they are doing. The saving grace of the context free talker is that they don’t use a whole lot of time to talk about what they’re doing. The big danger is that sometimes you really need them to.
The context free talker assumes that whatever they are working on is so important that everyone else is fully aware of every intimate detail of what they’re thinking about at all times. They are the center of the universe, so everyone must already know.
If you find yourself being context free, try to remember that “The fix is looking good, just tweaking a few final settings” is understandable by maybe one other person in the room. Although everyone appreciates getting to the point, letting everyone know what you’re talking about helps make sure others have the whole picture.
The play by play
The play by play doesn’t actually analyze what they are saying. They just state exactly what happened in chronological order. You’re not sure if they actually have solution, because they never really said. Their plans for future work are usually a portion of the title of the ticket they have been assigned.
It is likely that the play by play has no idea what’s going on, but is in denial about the whole situation. Their ego won’t allow them to admit they need help.
If you find yourself giving play by plays of everything, make sure that you take the time to understand what it is you’re doing. Nobody is going to pay more attention to your problem than you are. If you need help, ask for it.
The memento comes into every status meeting like the previous one didn’t happen. They volunteered to handle problems yesterday that they now don’t have any update on. It’s like yesterday never happened. If you want something to not get done, assign it to this person.
The memento believes that their memory is so good, and that their determination is so strong, that as soon as we leave this meeting, they are going to be able to knock out these problems without missing a beat. As soon as the first surprise of the day happens, all those plans are forgotten.
If you find yourself forgetting about tasks, remember that sticky notes are totally a thing, and that there are lots of tips online for taking notes. You probably never did in college, but now that there are so many things going on, it’s best to write it down.
We all do these
At some time or another, I have been guilty of most of these. It’s important to remember that we are all human, and, part of being human is having an inflated ego of yourself.