Your underwear in my bag

I'll be traveling around for one week. I open my bag and start packing the essentials: underwear, socks, shirts... But, wait a second, let me pack an extra shirt just in case I stain one accidentally. Trousers, shoes... Should I bring those casual shoes just in case we have dinner? Yes, probably I should. Sweater, jacket, ... Uhmmm, I'll pick that rainwear just in case, I've seen there's a chance it rains, ...

The logic: within the physical constraints of your luggage, pack for as many scenarios as possible. That's what a well prepared man is supposed to do. But when you travel as often as I do, the trade off between one extra gram in your luggage vs one more scenario covered recalibrates. A gram is not a gram. Trip after trip, when unpacking back home every unused cloth that I took out of the luggage seemed like an utter failure.

So I learned to pack light, which involves a no waste mindset: nothing can be unused at the end of the trip. No 'what if' is considered. Careful counting is applied to socks. No extra underwear. No backups. Living on the edge.

This change in mindset has profound effects. You immediately get the benefit of carrying a small case. You are now light and agile. You raise your awareness and become more careful. You become ready to cope with the unexpected, if only because any minor deviation will force you to act. Essentially, you feel like MacGyver, resourceful but lean, ready to act in the face of adversity with your skills and the corporate credit card as your only tools.

Last Sunday I looked at my agenda for the week, part of my weekly review ritual. I found the usual: not a single slot available, double and triple bookings. I couldn't help but notice the similarities with my once overpacked bags. This is the result of poor decision making: I should attend this meeting, they may need my input there, let's organize this other one and invite 5 people just in case they have something to add, let me include also their supervisors, just in case they feel offended. The what if scenario overschedules meetings and overinvites people to legit ones, creating inflation and forcing you to push the bag to get it closed. Every now and then, the zippers explode.

Now, there are some differences worth noting between packing and managing the agenda. Current software setup makes it so easy to put your stuff in my bag. Just create a calendar invite, throw it on the email, and that new appointment sits in your schedule right away. Now you have to opt-out, which seems rude and demands an explanation, which costs energy and friction. Look at the subtleties of language here: you invite to a meeting. Invite. As in inviting to a party. As in inviting to your house to enjoy meal together because I love you. Inviting is polite. Inviting is good. But then you can decline it. As in declining to attend to your wedding. Rude. As in declining to attend to the Oscars ceremony because I'm way over this superficial stuff. Uuuuuuuh. Only weirdos decline (we all love Woody, anyway). Declining is bad. I blame Microsoft and Outlook for making you throwing your underwear in my bag the polite thing to do.

Here's an alternative workflow:

  • You don't invite to a meeting, you demand someone's attendance (uuuuh, rude, you better be sure of that.)
  • Demanding attendance is opt-in, meaning the invite doesn't show up in the calendar unless you have accepted it.
  • If you have accepted it but someone else is still pending to accept, the meeting shows up in your calendar shadowed (as if this may not happen.) Only when everyone has accepted the meeting it shows up and blocks the slot.
  • If a meeting has not been confirmed by all attendees in the morning of the event, it automatically vanishes.

This rules out 80% of the meetings and 80% of the unnecessary invitations. I hope one day I can dream of something like this.

In the meantime, I may try to apply some of my overpacked bag analogy:

  • I'll review on a weekly basis my past meetings, feeling bad about the useless ones as unused shirts weighted me down when unpacking.
  • I will only accept invitations to meetings that are strictly necessary. Strictly necessary as compared to clean underwear. As in, does NOT attending to this meeting feel like wearing used underwear?
  • I will not accept a meeting if it's only really important that I'm there. Really important as you'd better pack an umbrella because it looks like rain. I pack an umbrella only if it's pouring.
  • I will invite people to a meeting only if strictly required, like one pair of socks per day, and no more.

Let's see if I can live up to my own commandments. In the meantime, this is my week 2 off the grid and I crossed my rubicon here. I'm officially out of Twitter now (I don't miss it anymore) and I'm done with news too. I can crawl to my cave now and grow a beard long as my arm.

I'll still be around this blog, though. See you next week. Cheers!

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