Laptops, Meetings, Nostrums

Laptop My department shares just one laptop. Sure we don’t often need to travel and work at the same time. Sure there’s a budgetary constraint. Still, it sucks when my users get new laptops every two or three months, when my work computer is struggling to compile source code.

While I’m not exactly jealous of the ability to work whenever I have to, it sucks when I go to a meeting and everyone’s got a laptop but I’m just carrying notes and scribbling on spare pieces of paper. And I’m supposed to be the IT guy.

That’s in the past. My users still get new laptops every two or three months, but I’m cool with my situation in meetings. Now I have a faint disdain for people typing away when someone’s talking in a meeting. I’ve had experience where I’m conducting a training session and someone’s softly tapping away at the keyboard. I think it’s rude. But I’m at the lower rungs of the corporate food chain in that room, so double suck.

I have witnessed some people actually composing and sending emails, and fleshing out Excel spreadsheets during a meeting, which were not related to the meeting. Go do them at the work desk! I’m sure it’ll be more productive.

Meetings should be used to rapidly whittle down objectives and issues. The faster the whittling, the faster everyone gets to work on whatever was discussed. Problems creep up and might need more time for discussion. Take a note of it and move on. I agree some people function better when taking notes on a laptop than with pens and paper. Those people had better be typing at speeds of at least 60 words per minute, and adept at using their note taking software of choice.

Personally, I prefer pens and paper for taking notes. Since I listen and think through the speaker’s words, I rarely get to write anything. And during lapses, I’ll quickly scribble a few choice thoughts.

Recently, I attended a seminar with Allan Pease as one of the speakers. There was an interesting point he made. Most men can only do one thing at a time. One of the examples Allan gave was that of communication. When a man speaks, he cannot listen. And when a man listens, he cannot speak. A man changing focus away from listening, cannot listen!

So what’s the cure?
I honestly don’t know. Doing a non-meeting-related work task during the meeting might have saved you a few minutes, but if you missed something important, you’re going to waste someone else’s time. The more people in the meeting, the more time wasted.

We can try banning laptop use during meetings, but I’m sure somewhere in the world, someone is having an apoplexy from not being able to multitask writing emails, doing Excel spreadsheets, modifying a Word document and attending a meeting all at the same time.