Lazy Sunday LXVIII: Phone it in Fridays, Part II

A quick note:  tomorrow marks the beginning of #MAGAWeek2020, a week-long celebration of people, places, concepts, innovations, etc., that MADE AMERICA GREAT (AGAIN).  #MAGAWeek posts are SubscribeStar exclusives, so you need a subscription of $1 or higher to gain full access to these extended posts.  You can check out #MAGAWeek2018 and #MAGAWeek2019 Lazy Sunday posts to get a better idea of the kind of content you’ll see this week.  God Bless America!

We’re continuing our review of Phone it in Friday posts with editions IV, V, and VI.  Hopefully they’re as good as the original Star Wars trilogy.  At the very least, they can’t be as bad as the prequels, or as woke as the new trilogy.  ¡Dios Mio!

  • Phone it in Friday IV: Conferencing” – I hate meetings.  I’ve been in enough of them to know that they are typically a soul-sucking waste of time, and their agendas are often way overstuffed, usually with information that could be explained easily enough in an e-mail.  That said, I love conferences.  This post was a review of a private school association’s annual teachers’ conference, which our faculty had not attended in some years due to various conflicts.  I find that, unlike meetings, conferences are full of opportunities to learn and to network.  There’s an air of sociable conviviality at a good conference—and cheese Danishes.
  • Phone it in Friday V: Ode to Friday Evenings (and Weekends)” – This post was truly a phoned-in edition of Phone it in Friday—it was late, I’d had a long week, and I needed to slam out some content to appease the WordPress Daily Post counter.  I explain that magical period “from about 3:30 in the afternoon until around about bedtime Friday night” when everything is alive with possibilities for the weekend ahead, and when you’re at the furthest possible point from official responsibilities.  Now that I’m on summer vacation and was doing distance teaching for two months prior to that, everyday is Friday, essentially (except for Wednesdays, when History of Conservative Thought meets).  I’m trying to enjoy unlimited Fridays while I can!
  • Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – This post wasn’t really about Valentine’s Day, per se, but it did include Z Man‘s excellent “The Lovecast” episode of his weekly podcast, as well as photog’s post about bringing back matchmakers.  I also reflected on some positive signs during a trip to a rural Hardee’s, which was remodeling:  “It was also heartening to see a Hardee’s in rural Lugoff, South Carolina spending the money to remodel.  Times are good.”

Well, that’s it for this classic trilogy of Phone it in Friday posts.  The fun continues next Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Lazy Sunday XXXV: Corporate Grind

Starting today, subscribers to my SubscribeStar page at the $5 level or higher will get an exclusive weekly doodle.  Just another perk of subscribing!

It’s been a very busy Sunday, the exact opposite of lazy. My little school hosts open houses for prospective parents and students about twice a year on Sunday afternoons, and as the go-to tech guy, I have slightly more to prepare than some of the other faculties.

I also play piano in my church on most Sunday mornings now (which I enjoy), and I play with a local jazz big band, which practices on Sunday afternoons (which I also enjoy).  Add it all up, and it made for a busy day.

So, with all that going on, not only is this Lazy Sunday late, it’s also focused on professional life—specifically, the rat race, the nine-to-five, the grind:

  • Meetings are (Usually) a Waste of Time” – One way I know that I’m getting old is that I’ve developed my own “best practices” for meetings.  I’ve sat through tons of pointless, lengthy meetings (and pointlessly lengthy ones), so I’ve come up approaches I attempt to stick to with meetings I run:  keep ’em short, limit it to two or three agenda items, and come in organized.
  • Phone it in Friday IV: Conferencing” – I despise meetings, but I love conferences—if they’re done well.  Just as there are best practices for meetings, there are best practices for conferences:  offer relevant sessions, keep the entire conference short in length, and have some decent food and coffee, appropriate for the length and nature of the conference.  A good conference is an opportunity to learn, network, and re-energize.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Culture Matters” – Culture matters!  That was the point of an excellent presentation I attended at the conference that occasioned the post above.  The presentation was specifically about the importance of growing and maintaining a healthy faculty culture, which largely means being thankful for faculty efforts, giving them the option to say no, and preventing burnout.  Read the whole thing with a subscription of just $1 a month!

That’s it!  A short, late Lazy Sunday after a decidedly busy Sabbath.

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Culture Matters

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

An additional appeal, and an update:  starting tomorrow (Sunday, 10 November 2019), I’ll begin posting a Sunday Doodle for $5 and up subscribers.  I am a prolific doodler (yikes!), and, on the recommendation of my younger brother, I’m going to upload one or two every Sunday, but only to my SubscribeStar page.

The additional appeal:  I need one more subscriber to ensure that subscribers enjoy auto-renewal each month.  SubscribeStar requires five subscribers to enable auto-renewal as an anti-fraud measure.  If you or someone you know would be interested in a subscription, please forward them this link:  https://www.subscribestar.com/the-portly-politico.

Thank you for your support!

—TPP

Read More »

Phone it in Friday IV: Conferencing

It’s been a very busy week, and with a slew of lessons and some open mic nighting yesterday—plus an early start this morning—I was unable to get a post written last night to go live this morning.  Further, I attended a teachers’ conference in a city about 90 minutes from my school, so I was unable to sneak in any surreptitious blogging amid sessions.

For tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday post, I’m going to write more about one of the conference sessions I attended, which was about the importance of faculty culture to the functioning of an independent school.  I think it holds within it some important lessons about culture more broadly, and is worth discussing in more detail.

For this evening, though, my time is quite limited, so I thought I would share some general reflections on today’s conference.  I’m scooting off to a very cold pressbox for the evening, from which I’ll be announcing a playoff football game, and getting some hastily-rehearsed singers out onto the field for a brief Veterans’ Day presentation.  When the head of your Board of Directors wants something, he gets it.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday XV: Work

It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but today’s Lazy Sunday is all about work.  I’m writing it amid a very lazy weekend full of loafing and pizza (and scrolling through Milo Yiannopoulos’s exquisite Telegram feed).

The weekend is so lazy because I’ve been working my butt off the past couple of weeks.  My pastor recently wrapped up our Wednesday night study of Nehemiah, and a major point of our last lesson (on Nehemiah 13) was the importance of keeping the Sabbath, for both spiritual and physical reasons.  He pointed out that God designed us to take a day once a week to rest, not out of legalistic adherence to the Law, but for spiritual and physical refreshment.

I’ve definitely been living up to that restful ideal, but I do love to work (namely, I enjoy earning money).  Work is therapeutic in its own way—it can distract from the follies of life—and while it is stressful at times, good work instills one with virtue.

I firmly believe that work is ennobling, and provides a sense of purpose and meaning beyond the obvious financial reasons people work.  Simply giving people money in lieu of work, then, may satisfy material needs, but it creates and encourages dependency, and robs one of an opportunity to grow and learn.

My main goal in working is to retire—I want to have enough squirreled away that I don’t have to work, which would free me up to enjoy work maximally (and to have the flexibility to take time for other pursuits when needed).  That’s why I teach full-time, teach part-time as an adjunct, teach private lessons, play gigs, write songs, and paint classrooms in the summer.  But I don’t think I’ll ever stop working at this point; I’ll just write more and sleep in later.

Of course, if you want to help me reach my retirement goals slightly faster, feel free to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page.  It’s just a buck a month to support my work and gain access to exclusive weekly content.  Consider that a year’s subscription ($12) is about the price of one large pizza, and you won’t get meat sweats from reading my material.

So, all panhandling aside, here are some past works on… work!

  • Meetings are (Usually) a Waste of Time” – This piece looked at a Rasmussen Number of the Day that claimed that Americans spend 11.5 hours a week in meetings.  What a waste.  I have way too much important stuff to do without some petty tyrant showing off his or her power to make me sit in a crowded room.

    My ironclad rules for meetings:

    • A regularly-scheduled meeting should be no more than 30 minutes
    • A less frequent meeting should an hour, tops, and that’s pushing it
    • If it can be done via e-mail, do it that way (just be prepared to send the e-mail several times to make sure people read it)
  • April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” – This post was about my getting laid off (well, technically, about finding out my contract was not being renewed) during the height of the Great Recession.  That was probably one of the most formative moments in my adult life, and explains why I fastidiously budget every penny for the day when the economy turns sour again.
  • Painting” – Another self-indulgent post, this one about the subtle joys of painting—no, not the fun, Bob Ross kind of painting, but the painting of rooms.  I spend most of my summers at school, often alone, painting classrooms.  It’s a great way to clear your head (and to listen to podcasts).
  • Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019” – I run a little summer camp every June that involves playing Minecraft with rambunctious young’uns.  It’s surprisingly lucrative:  in four half-days, I earned about double what I will in fifty hours of summer painting and maintenance work (depending on the number of students enrolled).  It’s also a blast, and kids create some amazing stuff in this little sandbox game.

What do you do to earn some extra bucks?  Leave a comment below, then head to my SubscribeStar page to sign up for a monthly subscription.

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Leftism in a Nutshell

You’ve got to admire the balls of the Left.  Yes, their wild policy prescriptions come from a combination of ignorance, wickedness, and magical thinking, but that doesn’t stop them from putting out some crazy ideas.

Take this piece from Gavin McInnes’s former rag, Vice:  “The Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less.”  The headline says it all:  let’s just not work so hard, gah!

Naturally, click-bait headlines like that don’t tell the full story.  The “degrowth” movement the piece discusses is classic progressivism:  we should support a robust public transportation system and give generous welfare benefits so people can spend less time working.

The “degrowth movement” is an inversion of Obama-era economic thinking.  Recall the sluggish recovery following the Great Recession, and how Obama informed us that low-growth was the “new normal” we’d all have to learn to love in America.  Now that the economy is roaring under President Trump, progressives are flipping the script:  “oh, wait, too much growth is a bad thing because climate change!”

Like most Leftist economic ideas, it’s premised on denying people choice and subsidizing loafing with generous bennies:

Degrowth would ultimately mean we’d have less stuff: not as many people working and producing materials, so not as many brands at the grocery store, less fast fashion, and fewer cheap and disposable goods. Families would perhaps have one car instead of three, you’d take a train instead of a plane on your vacation, and free time wouldn’t be filled with shopping trips but with non-money-spending activities with loved ones.

Practically, this would also require an increase in free public services; people won’t have to make as much money if they don’t have to spend on healthcare, housing, education, and transportation. Some degrowthers also call for a universal income to compensate for a shorter work week.

I’m all about saving money and avoiding empty consumerism.  I’ve written that there is more to an economy than faceless efficiency units slaving away for plastic crap from China.  I’m not unsympathetic to the idea of taking more time for family and personal edification (as a good deal of the workweek is wasted in meetings and busy work).

But this “degrowth movement” is absurd.  It’s all premised on a government somehow funding a massive welfare state as the citizenry becomes less productive.  Even the sympathetic economist they interview for this ideological puff piece argues that cutting growth to reduce carbon emissions would only have a marginal impact environmentally, but would be devastating socially and economically.

It just goes to show you that the Left hates the idea of hard work.  For them, work is an imposition, and we’d all be better off enjoying endless relaxation and luxury.  It’s the seduction of never-ending childhood: a paternalistic state provides all the goodies so we can watch TV and pursue pleasure all day.

Work is ennobling.  It’s important to earn a living wage for honest, valuable, productive work.  But beyond that, work provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment (I think this is particularly true for men, although women derive great satisfaction from work, too, especially the difficult, important work of raising children).  There is an identity to holding a job, and a sense of satisfaction from doing that job well.

Can one enjoy a good quality of life by pursuing a more minimalist approach?  Yes, of course:  if anything, Americans spend far too much money, a good deal of it on empty baubles.

There is a simple joy to minimalism, and I enjoy “spending” money on savings (it’s very satisfying to watch savings and investments grow).  But subsidizing lollygagging and calling it “investing in infrastructure” is not the sign of a great nation or civilization.

Meetings are (Usually) a Waste of Time

Here’s something a bit lighter for your Friday morning:  Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day series on Ballotpedia from 23 January 2019 claims that, in a 40-hour workweek, Americans spend an average of 11.8 hours of that time in meetings.  That’s over two hours a day, and over 25% of the entire week!

Despite all that time in meetings, Rasmussen writes that “just 54% of workers leave most meetings with a clear idea of what to do next.”  That’s not a ringing endorsement for meetings.

Every fiber of my being is anathema to lengthy, tedious meetings, of any kind.  My time is precious (and valuable—it comes at ~$50/hour for private lessons), and I rarely need someone telling me out loud what could have been sent in an e-mail.  With rare exceptions, I almost always believe that time spent in a meeting could be spent more efficiently working on my own.

Apparently I’m not alone.  From Rasmussen:

The biggest problem workers have with meetings is that many of them are unnecessary. Seventy-six percent (76%) of workers have experienced that frustration. Also high on the list are meetings that don’t stay on topic (59%) and repetition of things that have already been said (58%).

The precise cost of ineffective meetings is impossible to quantify, but estimates range from $70 billion to $283 billion each year.

So not only are meetings ineffective, unnecessary, repetitious, and frequently off-topic, they’re potentially expensive in terms of productivity.

Of course, these numbers coming from a poll, it could be that workers merely perceive meetings to be ineffective and unclear—and they feel it’s okay to admit as such to a pollster—but this data rings true.

There are those who thrive in meetings, either in the roles of leaders or attendees.  Some enjoy preening in front of a group—the busybody types who seek out power, the narcissists who want some fluorescently-accented limelight—and some who like to use meetings as a forum to demonstrate their own cleverness.  For a small few, they need the opportunity to ask questions, either out of a genuine need for additional information, or because they want to virtue-signal to their colleagues.

In recent years, I’ve come to suspect that a large chunk of our workforce consists of people who essentially have meetings and push paper for a living.  With an average of 11.8 hours of meetings per week, this suspicion seems to be gaining concrete support:  that’s an awful lot of time in which to justify your position’s existence.  I imagine public sector bureaucrats at the federal level inflate that number, and not insubstantially (remember that the next time a conservative seeks to cut funding to some government program, and progressives wail—they’re crying about the lost make-work job, not the people who allegedly benefit from the program).  Regardless, just as the bureaucracy expands for the sake of its own self-preservation, it seems that meetings expand to justify their hosts’ jobs.

When dealing with specific technical questions or getting a quote on some expensive piece of equipment or installation, yes, meetings are important and necessary.  Long-term strategy planning requires regular meetings, and a weekly administrative meeting to set goals for the week and to review what’s coming up on the calendar is a prudent idea.  But rambling, two-hour meetings stretch to the point of ineffectiveness—no one can focus, people need to use the bathroom, and the original thread is probably long-since lost down a rabbit hole of objections and side topics.

So, here are my practical guidelines for effective meetings:

  • No more than one hour for infrequent or monthly meetings, but ideally, thirty minutes in length, tops.
  • Have a clear-cut agenda with maybe two or three items; don’t have ten agenda items that you know you won’t be able to cover adequately
  • Be willing to table important items that are not time-sensitive, with a plan to revisit them later.
  • Explain as much as possible via e-mail in advance.  In my experience, if you send a good e-mail in advance, you can wrap up a meeting in fifteen minutes—you’re mainly meeting at that point to confirm that everyone knows what’s going on, and to address any lingering questions and to clarify certain points.

I generally follow these guidelines when I’m required to hold a department meeting, and they make for smooth, quick, efficient meetings.

As a rather solitary worker, I tend to forget that some people want or need more direction—my whole career I’ve just figured stuff out as it’s come up—so I understand the necessary evil of meetings.  That said, I also value other people’s time.

So, the next time you schedule a meeting, make it quick.  People have real work to do.