Friday, 23 January 2009

Getting Through Boring Commitments

We’ve all been stuck in situation where time appears to have actually started going in reverse. The following short tips can apply to pretty much anything, be it a board meeting, a tutorial or lecture for a much loathed subject, or even family commitments that you couldn’t think of a decent excuse to get out of in time.

1) Don’t watch the clock: This is my absolute number one rule to avoid time slowing down. Stop watching the time. A watched clock becomes insecure and stops ticking out of fear that you’re eyeballing it for making too much noise. I regularly glance at my watch thirty minutes into an hour long lecture only to find that the next thirty minutes feel like days.

2) Preparation: This is another one of those things where I find myself not practicing what I preach. A little preparation for whatever it is you’re about to go in to can go a long way. Even if it takes half an hour out of your schedule before hand, you will consider that time well spent once you’re able to use that preparation, as it will make the time fly past if you have a vague idea about what is going on.

3) Be interested: If you pretend to show an interest, you might inadvertently become interested and once you become interested you’ll probably uncover all sorts of new information that you wouldn’t have found otherwise that you would genuinely consider interesting anyway. You often get out of something what you put in and a positive attitude will normally yield positive results.

In my own experience, I have often had problems getting through Tutorials in an academic scene. These often take a topic from a lecture and force a discussion about the topic in a small group of about twenty people. This requires you to know the subject in order to participate in the session and the hour can turn into torture once it becomes apparent that nobody has done any of the required background reading. These sessions have traditionally been ones that I have eyeballed the clock into submission, attended unprepared, and have not been interested. Recently, I’ve been preparing more, I’ve not been watching the clock and I’ve been pretending to show an interest and miraculously enough, it’s worked and even the driest subjects have actually started becoming quite engaging. Even the law of Equity and Trusts has become at least partially interesting and Equity and Trust law is far from interesting.

These three little points are nothing earth shatteringly original, I realize that, but I actually first discovered that they work when I was asked to stand in for my boss on a management meeting. Management meetings are particularly dry affairs that managers tend to dread, as they have a tendency to run for over three hours, but I loved it and it went by remarkably quickly because I was prepared, interested and I didn’t watch the clock.

This again probably boils down to the idea of making the best of a bad situation. As tempting as it is to sit around whistling “always look on the bright side of life”, I realize it’s not all sunshine and optimism, but a little of the latter can go a long way.

Additional Notes:

Just a quick disclaimer to any family who may be reading this, by family commitments you can’t get out of, I’m certainly not relating any personal experience there, nor am I suggesting that it was an excuse that I used to get out of your last barbeque; the dog really had eaten my shoes. Honest.

I also fall apart in tutorials because I can’t bear awkward silences, which normally results in me trying to answer something that I have absolutely no knowledge about, thus humiliating myself and turning the awkward silence into an awkward conversation, which is only a minor improvement.

Admittedly, I loved the management meeting because I could believe for three hours that I was important and had a higher salary than I actually do. It’s always good to day dream.

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