I am an unabashed fan of The Onion.
Earlier this week they ran a fall-down funny piece titled “Open-Minded Man Grimly Realizes How Much Life He’s Wasted Listening To Bullsh**” (warning: there is a touch of profanity in the article). I chortled and passed it on to my brother to share the laugh. We both have a tendency to place a premium on being “considerate” at the expense of our own time and sanity, so I knew he’d appreciate it.
After it left my inbox, it also left my mind.
Until yesterday when my brother shot back a quick “ROTFL” reply. For some reason his email made me feel compelled to stop and re-read the article a second time.
Like a good satire should, it got me thinking.
How much time do I waste each day in an effort to be polite? Could I even quantify it? How much of others’ time do I waste in any given week with disorganized meanderings or irrelevant chatter?
Does mindless chatter ever serve a useful function? Surely there must be a balance between “efficiency” and humanity. Idle gossip and discussions about the weather do give two (or more) people an opportunity to find additional, often more personal, points of connection and involvement – which theoretically improves the quality and efficiency of future interactions.
And what about half-baked ideas? Are they always a waste of time?
It seems to me that while there are certainly times it is productive and useful to seek feedback and input early on, more often than not, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
Net/net: I can see the utility of idle chatter as a warm-up to productive conversations. But throwing out half-baked ideas is decidedly un-buttoned up. Be considerate. Take a moment to think ideas through before using another’s time. If you need additional input and ideas to complete your own, take a moment to be clear about what you are asking of the other person. Just that one little step will save both of you precious moments.
Curious about the impact on my own time, I’m going to log the number of minutes I spend in “useless” conversations because I’m being nice. If it’s a big number, I think I’ll need to develop a line or two that, while respectful of the other person’s feelings, enables me to extract myself and salvage more of my time.