On Why I Love Meetings
Let’s be honest: We all need a reason to get up in the mornings. (Ok, maybe not if you’re a morning person, but if you aren’t a morning person, you definitely know what I mean). When I was dog sitting for a friend’s dog last month, I always had a reason to wake up at 6 a.m.—Sadie, the dog. She demanded that I wake-up at that time in fact, and that is one reason why I refuse to own a dog at this stage in my life. When I kept my little 7 year old cousin for a few days this summer, he also demanded that I wake-up at 6 a.m.—one reason why even in my most “I-really-need-to-have-children-now” moments, I can find even a very tiny inkling of thankfulness in the unanswered prayers. Every Tuesday and Friday, I have to wake-up at 6 a.m. because I am expected to be at a morning prayer meeting because a group of friends in Christian ministries that I am involved in meet at that time to pray—and somewhat unfortunately, those are the only two days I go to that prayer meeting that meets every week day, because, the truth of the matter is: I need a reason to get up in the mornings.
Meetings have a way of waking me up and motivating me to start doing something other than lounging around in my PJs and drink coffee. There’s something about another person (or dog) expecting me to do something that actually makes me turn off the snooze, take off the slippers, and be productive with my life. When I don’t have meetings, it’s not that I lounge around all day—it’s just that my productivity and participation in life in the outside world starts significantly later. In fact, that’s been one of the most difficult transitions of being a student again: no one expects me to be anywhere for most of the normal “working hours” during the week. Therefore, my days have been somewhat poorly managed, especially since two out of three of my classes are night classes. Especially in the last week, my days and nights have been somewhat flipped, as I didn’t take advantage of the morning hours, and started to check-off things on my rather large to-do-list later in the day. If I have a meeting, even if it’s in the afternoon, I tend to schedule my 24 hours better, seeing that I do not in fact have several hours during the day to do nothing, because hey, look—I have a meeting, so I had better get started on things before I run out of time.
Another reason I love meetings is that I love the synergy of many brains thinking about the same things. I know so many people who roll their eyes at meetings, but I find that, if led in an efficient manner, meetings can really bring out more productivity (for any kind of group). Instead of communicating about a conference presentation over email with my co-presenters, this past week we made time to sit down for an hour and talk it out, the good old-fashioned way. In this age of efficiency = no face time = millions of emails/wikis/dropbox adds, etc, I found it refreshing and incredibly efficient to decide on the outline and content of our presentation with the three of us in the same room, communicating synchronously, without having to push a button and wait for the other person to talk, or wait several hours (or days) later for a group member to respond. Not only was our presentation more cohesive, but we came up with a better focus after discussing our target audience and reviewing our main thesis. Meetings help me to produce better work.
Meetings also provide me with the opportunity to connect with others, both professionally and personally, that share common interests and goals. This week I and some colleagues had a meeting with a Department Chair and another professor in that department. While we met to discuss our research on international student interactions on campus, I was able to also talk with the professor about my dissertation research for a few minutes after the formal meeting. We sat in the board room after everyone else had gone, and she was kind enough to bounce around some ideas about possible topics for my future research, which also happens to fit in with the scope of what her lab is currently studying. Had we not scheduled that face-to-face meeting, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spontaneously exchange ideas and see a place where my skills could potentially benefit other research on campus. Meetings are simply essential to collaboration, in my opinion.
Of course, there are those meetings where I roll my eyes, check my phone a thousand times, and wonder why anyone would put me through such strange torture. Although, most of those instances occur because the meeting is poorly organized, or there is no clear focus for the purpose of the gathering. It is very important that all people in the meeting are aware of the purpose and intended outcomes of the meetings, as I recently learned through a conflict with someone in a volunteer group that I lead. They were going to miss a leadership meeting because, essentially, they didn’t see the importance of the meeting that I had scheduled. Much to my disappointment, I realized that I had failed to clearly communicate the purpose of the monthly gatherings (or, at the very least, he failed to listen closely when I talked about the purpose at our last meeting). I often find that if the leader has a clear vision for the meetings and clearly communicates that to the others involved, it can be a great addition to someone’s workday and a very good use of time.
Today, however, I was in the middle of my day full of meetings, wondering when I would get a chance to sit down for an hour and keep all of my thoughts, brilliant ideas, and advice to myself. I was looking forward to the free 45 minutes in my schedule where I could just stare into space (or at Facebook or BBC news) just to not have to communicate or be productive. Once I got that chance, I reflected on how appreciative I was of the meetings I had today. I got to mentor, teach, and collaborate with some really amazing people about things that I care about. Even when I don’t love meetings, I love meetings.
Want to meet up sometime?