When Laptops Kill Productivity

If you've ever been to a meeting in your career, then you know that meetings can be great occasions to get a team coordinated, share knowledge, or they can be colossal wastes of time. In particular, I want to focus on a single particular productivity-sapping scourge: laptops .

Please, don't misunderstand. I'm not talking about laptops in the context of sharing information (e.g. as a presenter) or laptops as data retrieval tools to enhance a discussion. Those are ways in which laptops can be used to enhance meeting productivity. 

Instead, I'm talking about laptops when they are used in the interests of 'multi-tasking' during a meeting. Please stop doing this. It is rare that a person can truly be effective as a meeting participant when they are trying to also focus on a separate task. Sure, you might think that you are the rare unicorn that can contribute meaningfully to a discussion while hammering out code that would make Donald Knuth weep with joy. You are incredibly unlikely to be such a rarity. 

Much more likely is that you will at best waste your own time in the meeting and at worst you will waste everyone else's time in the meeting. I have been in meetings where the purpose of the meeting was to review and approve API changes that would impact the workload for two teams, yet it became clear that the meeting was a waste of time due to key members being distracted by their laptops and missing important information. I have also been in meetings where a key member was--unintentionally--drastically slowing down the meeting's progression due to not hearing information when it was presented and requiring that information to be repeated before the meeting could continue.

Folks, meetings should be thought of as an investment with an expected return on that investment. As such, it is important to treat that investment with care. Close the laptop lid, focus on the topic at hand, and your meetings will be far more effective.