Say What You Mean (Part 2)

Because we thought it was hilarious, here’s a follow-up to Say What You Mean, this time through the very specific lens of: time.

We’ve all had the experience of someone stopping by our offices — pre-quarantine, obviously — to ask a question. Sometimes you are even summoned to someone else’s office for such a question. Typically, colleagues try give you a sense of just how much time it will take. And most of the time they are cold-hearted liars. Here’s what they say, and what they really mean.

  • Do you have a minute? This one is tricky. A minute could really be a minute, or it could be the better part of an hour. Either way, the foundation for successfully answering this question is to make sure your headphones are in and you have a gnarly looking spreadsheet open — one that looks like it desperately needs your immediate attention.
  • Do you have two minutes? Generally, this is either two minutes or less. It’s such a specific amount of time, the only way it could be shorter is if they ask if you have three minutes. However, make sure you take a small stack of papers with you in case the two minutes begins to stretch, that way you can gesture at the very important work needing your attention.
  • Do you have five seconds? Nothing takes five seconds. Heck, one reading of the chorus lyrics of “Cotton Eye Joe” takes exactly 8.4 seconds, and who can listen to just one reading of the chorus lyrics of “Cotton Eye Joe?” The entire song is only 3:10 and yes obviously I just went and listened to it.
  • Do you have 10 minutes? No, Susan, I don’t. You can’t pop your head in here on a whim and ask for one-sixth of an hour when I know you’re going to need the full darn hour. Go hop on Google Calendar, search my schedule — you can do this because I have given you access to my calendar like five times — and set a meeting. And set it for at least two weeks from now, because I promise you in that span of time you will figure out whatever it was you needed and then this meeting won’t be unnecessary.

There you have it, folks. The definitive guide to what our fellow nonprofiteers mean when they ask to insert themselves in our lives for questions they could probably answer themselves, or ones that didn’t need to be asked at all. And now here’s “Cotton Eye Joe.”

You’re welcome.

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