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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chronicles of Wasted Time

Malcolm Muggeridge, the British journalist and wit among other talents, entitled his autobiography, CHRONICLES OF WASTED TIME. I read it at publication decades ago (he lived 1903-1990) and found it slow going with great writing and interesting insight. The title always amused me.

Recently, I sent the title out to a number of people on my panel who were retired or who announced they were about to be in the near future. I did not ask anyone to read Muggeridge only to react to the title of his autobiography. Here are some of the more interesting comments that I have received back:

--“Don, what a perfect way to describe my career! I spent more time in meetings both internal and with clients than I did actually working. The work itself was a joy; the meetings deadly.”

--“A few years back, I became a consultant. I am so much more productive than I ever was at an agency. No being bored by the long harangue of my CEO, no pompous creatives to ruin my day with their holier than though attitude. At the same time, if I have not spent 30 years at several shops and five client side, I could never do what I do now. So, the “wasted time” was the greens fee that I had to pay for the free and lucrative life that I have today. Sometimes, I miss the camaraderie, but most days I am very content.”

--“I have always been impatient. Meetings sapped my time and my emotional strength. I bet that I spent 20 years of my career in meetings. Now, I do a few conference calls and lots of e-mails and am very productive. Clients know that I charge by the day so they do not waste my time. They have expectations of me and have all their ducks in a row when I visit them. I have never worked more efficiently.”

-- “Meetings are just part of the process. The time was not really wasted. If you listened carefully and stayed attentive, you learned a lot about the players involved. The mavericks, the yes men, the lazy, the nut jobs, the ultra-talented all showed themselves eventually.”

--“Don’t get me started. There were times in my late 50’s when I felt that I had wasted my life by staying in this business. My husband helped me stay on an even keel. Yes, my career was a chronicle of wasted time. Wasn’t yours?”

--“Firemen, combat soldiers, political assassins, and day traders all have down time but on the job itself they do not waste time. The rest of us do regardless of profession. It is called life.”

Personally, I could deal with it fairly well except when it became repetitive. I had a client whom I visited twice a year for nine years. At each session, he asked precisely the same questions. After four or five times, I sent him a lengthy report thanking him for his interest and hoped to put the issues to bed. Nope. The next meeting he opened with the same inquiries. I never could figure him out nor could anyone around me. He was never rude and not unintelligent. Yet, he was a time waster on steroids.

How about you? Has your career been a Chronicle of Wasted Time?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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