The gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish hours! Confound them too,
Who in this place set up a sundial,
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small portions!
-Maccius Plautus, c. 200 B.C.
When I look at my calendar and see a pristinely empty weekday, a feeling of joy wells up inside me. “Yes,” I think, “I can get so much code written!” A day without meetings is a joy forever. And whenever I have the misfortune to glance at a manager’s calendar, filled with meetings from beginning to end, I feel both pity and wonder.
Paul Graham wrote an excellent essay explaining the difference between programmer time and manager time in Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. Basically, programmers need large undisturbed tracts of time, something a manager doesn’t need, can’t get, and can barely comprehend. Next time your manager wants a meeting with you, send them a calendar invitation with subject “Read this” and the URL to this essay.
But remember, it takes two to protect your time. It’s your job to refuse to go to unnecessary meetings. If someone wants me to go to a useless meeting, I make them a deal: Send out an agenda in advance and I’ll consider it. I never, ever get an agenda.
I am proud to say that Red Hat (my corner of it, at least) gets programmer time implicitly. I average perhaps one meeting a month, and it is usually one I have organized myself. The biggest problem is remembering how to get a conference call number.