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Dr. Strangemeeting (or: how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the donuts)

by Geoff Hart

Previously published, in a different form, as: Hart, G.J. 2001. Dr. Strangemeeting. (or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the donuts). Intercom July/August:56.

“Their business… was over, … and they all knew it; the magic moment had arrived when it was understood that nothing more would be established, discovered or decided today. But… the engines of protocol had enormous inertial mass; once set in motion, they took forever to grind to a stop. [They] proceeded to dutifully chew the scraps of the agenda until all had been gnawed to nothing-at-all.”—Michael Swanwick, Stations of the Tide

Experts claim you’ll spend 1500 hours in meetings during a typical 30-year career—that is, if you can duck some meetings by looking busy and if you can retire early. If you duck slowly or plan a long career, you could easily spend more time in meetings than you spend working. Fortunately, a little planning and some quick thinking should let you turn meetings into a blessing—or at least a tolerable evil. Here’s how:

These suggestions may seem seditious at first glance, but it’s the meetings themselves that pose the problem: You were hired to work—and meetings prevent you from doing so. In a way, subverting meetings is the highest form of loyalty, and that’s surely a noble thing. Even if they don’t serve donuts.

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