Recently, a guy I was supposed to meet showed up 15 minutes late to our 3:00 pm meeting, apologized for being late, and then said that this was his 11th meeting of the day.  Eleven meetings by 3:00 pm.  He said, “Sometimes I don’t even know what my job is here.”  I do.  His job is to attend meetings.

If you think my last post was right, that we need downtime, and even boredom, in order to be clear on the problems we are working on and to be creative in their solutions, then you can see why attending this many meetings is such a problem.  This guy was a senior technical executive with a critically important (and hard) job.   When does he have the time to do it?

While team meetings and problem solving are certainly important, when we fill our days every day with endless streams of meetings we give ourselves, and those around us, the illusion we are doing productive work.  We are, after all, in a meeting.  Surely, that is productive work.

Today, I had five meetings in a row to start my day, followed by three hours of clear space.  When I think about today, those meetings were the necessary part of it and my role in my company, but the three hours of uninterrupted time to think and write this afternoon was my truly productive time.

When was the last time you had a week to work uninterrupted on a problem.  How about a day?  When was the last time you had half a day, four hours to work uninterrupted on a problem?  For too many of us, that isn’t very often, if at all.  And, if your job involves any kind of creativity or problem solving, then you simply are not doing your job well.  Really.  You may think you can get your mind in a state of focused creative problem solving during your lunch break between meetings, but you can’t.  Our brains simply need time to shift gears.

So, before you take your next job.  Ask to see your interviewer’s calendar.  How much time does he or she get to do real work?  Do you see any open spaces in the calendar or is it completely filled with meetings, workshops and committees?

If your next job won’t give you the time to think, then don’t give them your time at all.