If someone you’ve never met or barely know called you at home and said « meet me at the zoo at 9 am tomorrow », what would you say? If you received a letter from your lawyer inviting you to their office to discuss “certain matters”, how would you react? Unless you really like to live dangerously or get a special thrill from legal mysteries, you’ll probably decline the first invitation and ask for a bit more context about the second.
So why is it that common sense and task prioritisation sometimes go out the window when we receive a meeting invitation by email? Let’s be honest. How often do you accept a meeting or a conference call request that has no subject line, no clear agenda or, even worse, no stated purpose? Imagine describing that behaviour to a junior colleague or new joiner – “Oh yes, I make a point of turning up to meetings completely unprepared. I perform best when I’m flying blind. Let’s go.”
Yet, for some reason, we all feel compelled to click on the “Accept” button as soon as the invitation lands in our inbox. We don’t even think about it. It has almost become a reflex, some sort of compulsive behaviour. Whatever the reason behind this response – and the theories include fear of being excluded from the corporate “inner circle”, a desire to impress, wanting to bat emails away as soon as they arrive, or just to look busy – it’s clear from all the web commentary and TED talks on this subject that the syndrome is widespread.
At a time when productivity is acknowledged as the key battleground for corporate and state success in an increasingly competitive world, I say let’s crack down on time-wasters. Would it be so demanding to ask that meetings be well-planned, that invitations to attend include a clear agenda and list of attendees? The good news is that there is professional help at hand: if you are too busy or forgetful to schedule a properly detailed meeting yourself, or fear an imminent relapse into the “bad old ways”, I’m sure your Virtual Office Assistant can get you sorted.