Bottom line readers, perk up. Today’s app is right up your alley. Wasted Time calculates the value of the time missed by employees who are late to the meeting. The bottom line? Wasted Time is a waste of time and money, because the very idea of “wasting time” is a moronic metaphor dreamed up by productivity experts with nothing better to do than to waste your time and money.
Although these bullet points won’t in any way resemble the review below, this should be what bottom line readers are looking for.
- Wasted Time doesn’t really provide anything useful.
- It doesn’t work all that well.
- It tries to quantify values that can’t really be quantified.
- It’s the ultimate micromanager’s faux pas.
In addition, I discuss the philosophical concept of time—both to human beings and to cats, briefly describe the spurious roots of the metaphor “time management,” bash the app of a developer who may be a perfectly nice and sincere person who thinks the world revolves around meetings and the people who schedule them, roast the value of meetings in general and discuss why behavior modification doesn’t really work for people who think the punishment is actually a reward.
Jenny Manytoes somehow downloaded an app from the App Store called Wasted Time. I have no idea how she learned my password, much less learned to type it, but somehow I found the app on my iPad and her sitting on my shoulder pawing at the app on the screen.
“Why would you want this app?” I asked her. “It’s supposed to measure time wasted at meetings.”
Jenny immediately yowled in my ear, which is usually a sign she wants me to pick her up and pet her, or that she wants Carol to feed her. Jenny is very anal about who performs what responsibilities, perhaps because she knows Carol will dish out wet food and place the dish gently in front of her while I’ll just throw dry food in the dish—provided I don’t simply yell, “Carol, Jenny’s hungry.”
But since she was sitting on my shoulder already and Carol had just fed her, I assumed she wanted to know what a meeting was.
You see, cats don’t have meetings. They simply engage in one of four activities and if the others cats want to join them that’s fine and if they choose to do something else that’s also fine. Decision making is easy when you have four activities to choose from:
- Eat (or look for someone else’s food to eat)
- Explore the house (usually to look for food)
- Play, which usually results in someone destroying something in the house
I couldn’t be more wrong. Jenny knew what a meeting was, cats have them in the hallway all the time, usually to decide who’s going to move first.
Ginny wanted to know what time was.
It turns out, cats have no concept of time. They have play, naps, naps in the sun, eating, overeating, and even more play. The only thing you can waste, according to cats, is food. And the only way for a cat to waste food is to leave it, even if the alternative is to gorge so much food down they end up returning it to you on the bedspread (often along with hair balls).
If I get a bit philosophical, please forgive me. But even if you don’t, I’m going to get philosophical anyway.
Time is a metaphor. It doesn’t exist. It’s a construct created by mathematicians and scientists to measure certain phenomena, but the passing of time exists only in our minds. Which means you can’t really measure time, you can measure the duration of events; you can’t manage time because even if it were real, it couldn’t be managed; and you can’t waste time because time, by definition, is infinite and can’t be wasted.
Time is like a number. You can break numbers down into tinier and tinier increments, but you can’t waste them because the number of numbers is infinite. Throw away five through 150,000 and there will still be other numbers to take their places. No one would notice a loss because numbers can’t be lost. No one can notice the loss of time because time can’t be lost.
So why do we have the concept of wasting time? Because some moron at some point in history decided that time was property, it had an economic value and it belongs to whoever accuses me of wasting their time.
Productivity experts such as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth of Cheaper by the Dozen invented ideas like time management in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to “measure” productivity. Since then capitalists and middle managers world over have devoted their lives to squeezing every second of profitable time out of their employees and have totally missed the point.
The most productive workers are those who are the best at their jobs and, by definition, only a handful of employees can be the best at their jobs. The other employees will never be as good at their jobs no matter how many management paradigms are trotted out to improve them.
Here’s the other reality check. If you fire the employees who aren’t as good the odds are equally good that their replacements will be no better and could possibly even be worse. Unless the current employee really sucks at their job. Then the odds improve, but only slightly. In the meantime, you will be shoveling extra work off onto the better employees until you replace and train the new employees which means your star employee’s performance will decline as well.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking. What about all those thousands of books on how to make money by people who were good at making money? Trust me, dear reader, if they were good at making money without selling you books on how to make money, they wouldn’t be writing the books. They’d be making money.
But if we want to discuss the concept of “wasted time,” I know of know better way to waste employees’ time than to schedule them into meetings. Meetings are guaranteed to produce one result only: keeping employees away from their workstations where they could be working. And the only people who really think meetings are productive are the managers and employees who like getting out of real work by scheduling meetings.
Think about this. Employees who are good at meetings are those who enjoy being at meetings. This does not mean that every employee who enjoys being at meetings is actually contributing productively to the meeting. On the contrary, however, employees who don’t enjoy being at meetings will only be less productive as employees and as contributors to meetings.
Besides, I never attended a single meeting where the outcome of the meeting wasn’t decided before the meeting begin. The only purpose of the meeting was to convince team members that they were actually part of the decision making process. The meeting allows the naysayers, who may have excellent reasons for their naysaying, to naysay and suffer the delusion that their naysaying was actually taken into consideration before the decision was reached.
By now readers must surely be suspecting that this entire rant may have something to do with the iPad app I am reviewing today, an app called Wasted Time. If readers further suspected that the mere name of the application pushed one of my hot buttons, they would be absolutely right.
So let me be up front with readers. The application Wasted Time developed by Ap App (what kind of name is that by the way?) claims to be a tool for modifying the behavior of those who waste time by showing up late for meetings. According to their App Store page, “Wasted Time will calculate the cost of wasted time [from late arrivals], as well as the cost of your entire meeting. Make the last person to join pick up the tab at your next night out, up to the amount of the wasted time. See how their behavior will change over time….”
No doubt. They will probably stop showing up for nights out, and may even start missing meetings altogether.
The developers claim that the meeting facilitator should enter the average cost of everyone’s salary. Once the meeting starts, the facilitator should press a button to note when each person arrives and the app will calculate the value of time wasted in dollars.
Micromanaging with your iPad
This application is so wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to start. I showed it to Carol and she assured me that the developer was being tongue in cheek. I’ve looked at the app from every angle and I can find neither tongue nor cheek.
The instructions are a little confusing, and the first several test scenarios I ran ended with no time being wasted. I finally figured out the steps:
- You press “start the meeting” as soon as you are ready for the meeting to begin. If anyone arrived before you, they are simply early and you can’t possibly be wasting their time.
- You click the plus button when each member arrives.
- When everyone who needs to be present has arrived, you click “quorum achieved” (even if it isn’t really a quorum as defined by Roberts’ Rules of Order).
- Wasted Time tells you how much time was wasted waiting for everyone but you to arrive.
- Click “end meeting” when the meeting is over. Wasted Time tells you the total value of the meeting and asks if the meeting was worth it.
The interface is extremely bare, if you could call it an interface at all. The entire app is a wooden textured background, with a very large “+” and “-” for adding and removing staff members from the meeting, and very small text.
I usually encourage minimalist interfaces.
This one seems extremely bare.
I ran a sample meeting of ten employees with an average salary of $100,000 and didn’t reach quorum until ten minutes into the meeting for a total waste of $14.37. I don’t know but this doesn’t seem like much to get upset about. I don’t even think that would cover the cost of the tips on the first round of night out for people at this salary level.
I’m not sure $14 is much of a waste by anybody’s standards.
How do you calculate the value of an employees contribution?
I know I’m straying back to questions of philosophy more than actually reviewing the app. But if the app claims to stop fellow employees from wasting time, I think it’s fair to ask if their absence from the meeting can really be calculated in dollars and cents.
For instance, it makes little sense to me to average salaries. This assumes that the $10 and hour receptionist asked to the meeting to take notes is as valuable as the mechanical engineer doing the presentation.
What if the person who arrives late is the least highly paid employee? Has he really wasted your time? What if the person is only present to observe? Has his absence diminished the value of the meeting?
What if the person who was late is actually the one person who stonewalls every decision and more can be accomplished before he arrives than after? Or if the person who is late is the perennial joker who keeps the rest of the team entertained but brings the productive elements of the meeting to a close? Wouldn’t their tardiness increase the value of the meeting?
What if the person arriving late is paid more than you? What if he runs the company? How are you going to tell your boss he wasted company time by having priorities other than your meeting?
These are all variables that really need to be considered before determining the final cost of the meeting.
Aren’t you wasting a valuable iPad by running this app during the meeting?
I don’t think this really needs a paragraph, but I definitely thought it was worth a subhead. Chances are that if you’re in a meeting with your iPad, the company or organization bought it for you to use. Shouldn’t you be using it to take notes, keep track of presentations, check with people who need to connect to the meeting online?
How do you determine the value of a meeting anyway?
Who determines the value of the meeting? The person who calls the meeting? The person who is told to call and facilitate the meeting? The team members in attendance? Is a meeting to discuss the release of a new RFP more valuable than a meeting to plan next month’s birthday lunches? Is a meeting to discuss salaries more important than a meeting to schedule vacation time?
Thank God this isn’t a bigger nightmare.
The app doesn’t keep track of which individuals arrive late. It doesn’t keep track of which individuals leave early. It doesn’t account for discussion that can be held before quorum is reached. It doesn’t account for agenda items that could have been discussed had staff members arrived on time.
If you were to actually toss the number $14.37 into the face of the latest person in the room, how do you answer the question, was this just me or does it include Susie Derschowitz who arrived thirty seconds before me?
Nor does it account for the possible reasons people may have skipped the meeting.
Finally, I suspect it misses the most important issue in the desire to modify an employee’s behavior. Employees who dread meetings, who seriously believe their time is better spent at their desks than following an agenda they aren’t even interested in, may find the meeting more of a punishment than the thought of picking up a fourteen dollar tab.
That would be me. Hell, I might be willing to pay for missing the entire meeting if it gets me out of the meeting. And offering that employee the option of attendance or buying drinks may well encourage him or her to miss meetings even longer, and feel perfectly justified.
What the hell. Punch that start meeting button. Then send me the bar tab for the next night out, along with a screen shot documenting the actual meeting cost and how much of the tab I have to pay.
Jenny Manytoes rates Wasted Time
Jenny Manytoes has left the room without even bothering to leave it in the litter box. She finally understood the concept of wasting time. I created a new category just for this app, although more apps may join it. This app doesn’t even get rated, the equivalent of 0 Stars.