I just experience one. A long one. An 8:00 to 12:00 informative gathering. Four hours plus. To be exact, 249 excruciating minutes. 8:00 to 12:09.
And I’ve read in three psychology textbooks that the average human’s attention span is his or her age in minutes. That’s the accepted average. So if a boy is eight-years-old, he can focus for eight minutes. If a woman is 48-years-old, she can focus for 48 minutes. Now I know that the equation is imperfect, not all of us can last anywhere near that long, but the formula IS generally accepted as the simple equation to use when working with a large group.
So back to my meeting. It started with a “warm-up” (another favorite activity of mine), then proceeded from there. I’d tell you what the rest of the meeting was about, because I like specifics, but unfortunately I slumped into a narcotic doze after 32 minutes.
Upon waking up, and realizing that the meeting still had two hours to go, I thought of the president. Not just our current president, Mr. Obama, but the last few presidents in general. Their common decision-making process.
Now I’ve been told that “The Leader of the Free World” often has three minutes. He hears multiple perspective on an issue, then makes a decision. In three minutes. That’s it. Three. And I understand that this sort of process is brought on by necessity (at 4:00 A.M. he might have to decide what the country’s response should be to a bombing in West Africa), but it does have a simple, clean allure. Three minutes. Tell me two sides of an issue, and I’ll make a decision. In 180 seconds. Bam. Finished.
Of course I know that not all issues can be explained, considered, and decided upon in that timeframe. But excluding marital decisions, parenting decisions, hypothesis testing, novel restructuring, etc., it might work. It could work. It would work.
Bureaucratic work issues? Three minutes. Syllabus overview? Three minutes. How to punch your code into the new security system? Three minutes.
And have penalties for people who break the rule. Five dollars towards a staff pizza party if Donald takes an extra five minutes explaining the new union fundraiser. Public flogging for Janice if she details the new email system for an extra 15.
And Bosses: Don’t call a “45-minute meeting” that is really going to last 74 minutes and 33 seconds.
End of rant.