I’m a manager type, which means the calendar is usually full of meetings. Now, it is my goal in life to make sure that every single meeting must actively defend its right to exist, but even with that constant fight going on, I am in a lot of meetings. 9am until 5pm is 85% meetings. This has been unchanged for a decade1.
In a normal time on the planet Earth, the majority of these meetings are face to face. We gather in various rectangular shaped rooms with mostly rectangular tables, and we discuss the topics at hand for 30 to 60 minutes. Towards the end of that time, we nod a bit, we gather our things, and move to a different rectangular-shaped space with a slightly different set of faces, and repeat. Repeat for the entire day.
These are not normal times.
A full calendar stocked with interesting meetings, and curious people fills me with productive joy. In these non-normal times, I am thankful that the calendar is full, but my most significant learning from the first full week of distributed work is the immense accumulated value of short breaks.
For the first three days of this week, I woke up, went through a reduced morning routine, and jumped into meetings. Knock on wood – the infrastructure support all the essential productivity tools has been solid. Excellent work, internet! Even better because there is zero time required moving from meeting A to meeting B, I am impressively on time.
But there are no breaks.
The experience was the same on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Wake-up, get ready, sit down for the 9am meeting and BAM it’s 6pm, I haven’t really eaten, the sun is going down, and I have a slight headache. Part of this focus is certainly a coping mechanism. I seek normality because everything else appears broken. The absence of calm that comes with standing up, walking across the building, being out of the meeting mindset, letting my mind wander, and unwinding is startling.
Starting this morning, I’ve:
- Started adding chunks of blocked time to my calendar.
- When it’s reasonable, 1:1s are now outside. Walking. Today I walked a path near the house and pulled Scotch Broom from the trail. It was delightful. The walk. Not the Scotch Broom. Scotch Broom is the worst.
- When a meeting does finish early, I get up, leave my office, and do something else. Like, write this article.
During these strange days, I appreciate the work, but the work is secondary to health. I invest daily in the big three: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Each of these investments is a long term insurance policy. While it seems obvious, there is a fourth, and that is time. Precious quiet and brief time. Our minds need periods of time where there is no focus, we wander mentally, and we perform essential housekeeping on the intangible.
Failure to do, especially now, creates stress, and the last thing you need your life right now is more stress.
- Again, not saying this is optimal, but it is factual. ↩