Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

The Calendar is the New To-Do List

Where some might see a calendar reflecting disorganization and a severe lack of sensitivity to others’ time, I see a pre-made to-do list that offers a zen-like sense of accomplishment and career validation.

One of the fun things about working as a professional in a high-energy industry like software is the palpable excitement that permeates the marketing group. That zizz and zazz you feel when reviewing work, generating ideas, and watching campaigns deliver a nice beefy return on the investment — not to mention the oft-heard “holy shit we just set another quarterly revenue record” — keeps everyone on their toes.

The creative and entrepreneurial fire pervades the sales and marketing departments so much that ideas sprout like dandelions in the Spring, and the team entertains daily solicitations for another Greatest Marketing Opportunity Ever. Some of these are good, some are not, some are followed through with regardless.

So what happens when someone really pees their pants over a good idea? Well everyone chugs a few 44 oz. cups of QuikTrip coffee, fires up Excel and PowerPoint, starts free-associating marketing buzzwords at warp 9, and before you know it half the team is corralled into a conference room sweating from the heat of a massive projector blazing Excel-generated diagrams that are explaining in unquestionably not-made-up bar graphs how marketing enterprise software to sherpa hostels in Nepal is the absolute key ingredient to driving future growth.

Believe it or not, some of the meetings even have value. (Really, I swear!) These days I have to be a bit discriminating in which ones I attend. Not because I have real work to do, but because I have to balance conflicting meeting invites based on who I like better and if there’s a chance I’ll be able to catch up on e-mail in between conversations.

So you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s the crappiest job ever. How does anything get done with everyone meeting about sherpas?” Good question. The best way to metaphorize it is maybe think about a shared military experience, or possibly a football team where everyone is the coach. The idea is an organism that has every appendage driving forward motion. The result is not a cataclysm of brimstone and creative briefs, but a serene sense of belonging where you only have to think about 10% of your day because everyone else — the collective mind — has thought about the rest for you.

In essence, what you have is not a calendar of meetings, but a to-do list of thinking. For instance, let me share my Monday calendar:

8:30-9:00Meeting: Discuss Upcoming Print Projects
9:00-10:00Meeting: Project Management With Writing Team
10:00-10:15sense of loss, possible bathroom break
10:15-11:00Meeting: Weekly Review of Corporate Website Updates With IS and IT Teams
11:00-11:30Meeting: Go Over Fabric Options for Tradeshow Booth Graphics
11:30-12:30Lunch Meeting: Strategize Sessions for Upcoming Marketing Off-site Strategy Session
12:30-1:00sit at my desk, questioning purpose in life, possible trip to soda machine
1:00-2:30Meeting: Marketing Manager Meeting
2:30-3:30Meeting: One-on-One (aka, a “1:1”) With Director of Marketing
3:30-4:00Meeting: Review Creative for Upcoming E-mail Blast
4:00-4:30Meeting: Campaign Ideas for Recruiting Campaign
4:30-4:55read Kottke, scan Longboard feed from Airbag
4:55-5:00catch up on e-mail

So what does this translate to? While some might see a case study for bloated corporate over-thinking, I see a list of accomplishments. For instance, look at what I accomplished Monday:

8:30-9:00Organized this week’s print run
9:00-10:00Caught up on what my writing team’s working on
10:00-10:15Went to bathroom
10:15-11:00Made sure the IT department isn’t switching server environments for at least another week
11:00-11:30Choose fabric and vinyl colors for reprinting of environmental graphics
11:30-12:30Ate a good hamburger
12:30-1:00Got soda
1:00-2:30Discussed key personnel issues, hiring plans, important managery stuff
2:30-3:30Validated position, existence
3:30-4:00Gave go ahead on new artwork
4:00-4:30Decided on a headline idea
4:30-4:55Read about that crazy lake in Darfur
4:55-5:00Responded to at least one e-mail

See? That’s why they pay me the big bucks. With only about an hour of unproductive solitude, I’ve successfully contributed to the flailing mutant octopus that is the marketing team. Now that’s a good job.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Tuesday July 24, 2007

Oh, how I miss tasty (and sometimes useful) lunch meetings and free soda. You made me miss the old job…

Now if I just had someone to validate my existence at work, I’d be set.