Say No To Coffee, Sometimes

We are in the coffee business, and we still agree that sometimes you have to say no to coffee (thanks to Bartleby at The Economist for this review):

Why it’s time to get shot of coffee meetings at work

A productivity hack for the ages

If people used the time they currently devote to reading books about productivity hacks to do some actual work, their productivity problem would be solved. But occasionally these books contain nuggets of wisdom. In “Time Wise”, Amantha Imber has a short chapter whose title alone gleams with good sense. It is called “Why you need to say ‘no’ to coffee meetings”. That is splendid advice for anyone who can identify with the following situation.

An email arrives from someone you do not know, asking to meet for coffee. Such requests arrive fairly often. It might be someone starting out on their career who wants guidance on how to progress in your field. It might be a freelancer hunting for work. In this instance the sender, who is called Cassie and got your name from a colleague whom you vaguely know, thinks there may be a way for your two companies to work together.

You don’t really want to meet Cassie. On the other hand, saying that you don’t want to meet someone, ever, feels a little rude. The meeting is weeks away, and the diary looks clear. You do drink coffee. She might be a useful contact if you want to move jobs. And you have heard of her company: it is just possible something useful might come of a discussion. You ignore instinct and say “yes”.

The morning of the meeting arrives and you see “Coffee with Cassie” in your calendar. Who the hell is Cassie? You find the email chain, curse yourself for agreeing to meet and wonder briefly about cancelling. Just then an email arrives from Cassie saying how much she is looking forward to coffee. Bollocks. You confirm the time and place, but say you only have time for half an hour.

You arrive at the coffee shop, and remember you have no idea what Cassie looks like. You introduce yourself to several other people, who are plainly all waiting for similarly aimless meetings, until you receive an apologetic text from Cassie to say that she is running late and will be there in five minutes. The one thing you are determined to get out of this coffee meeting is a coffee, so you order for yourself and find a table. In a victory of hope over experience you have brought a notepad: you write the date and Cassie’s name and company at the top.

You text Cassie to say that you are sitting by the man in the pink sweater, who leaves almost immediately. Ten minutes later you see someone who is scanning the room at sweater height. You mouth each other’s names like guppies in an aquarium. It’s Cassie. She goes to get her own coffee, which takes another five minutes. The coffee meeting is halfway done and there has yet to be a meeting.

Cassie sits down. Ritual demands an exchange of platitudes. You swap information that will be of no use to anyone ever: how late in the day you can drink coffee before it disrupts your sleep, how many days a week you now spend in the office, how she knows your colleague. Then you confirm things that were already known to both of you (what roles you are in) and add unnecessary detail (how long you have been in your job)…

Read the whole review here.

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