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Field Reports: Guerrilla Office Tactics

I've started collecting stories -- some of which may be entirely apocryphal tall tales -- of the purported lengths to which people are going to filter noise and to ensure that their time and attention aren't ceded to bad ideas, thoughtless people, or garden-variety time burglars.

Here's a few of the more novel ones I've picked up. I'd also love to hear your favorites from amongst the cheats, tricks, and squirrely rules you've heard about:

Before you flame me

I’m not saying I necessarily promote or recommend any of these for you (or anyone, for that matter) — I just think they’re a fascinating snapshot of the lengths people need to go to today in order to get a semblance of order in their environment.

  • Bozo filter - Filter into a "holding" folder every email message for which you are not the sole "TO:" recipient. This filter includes lists, "CC:"s, "BCC:"s, and any number of other bulk-y messages that were never destined for you alone. Then you check that folder once a day, and create compensating rules as needed.
  • Smoking the bacn - Similar to my "no press releases" trick, filter any email that contains the string "to unsubscribe." Although many of these certainly will be valuable (sign-ups, Google lists), that string means there's a good chance they're also bulk messages that are being generated automatically. And some folks want to only see those sorts of emails, again, once or twice a day -- and only when they have extra time (read as: don't interrupt me whenever someone on Facebook wants me to be a zombie, or whatever).
  • Trusted (and lazy) filter - For a very noisy, high-volume list, filter all messages except those by 2-3 people whom you really respect. When those people chime in, catch up with what they're responding to -- chances are good you haven't missed much and can use their appearance to get up to speed.
  • Lessons from Mr. Hand - One minute after a designated meeting time, the door to the meeting room closes, and latecomers ain't welcome. (I'd also note that this can have unintended consequences if you're the "late" guy and you happen to hate going to meetings)
  • No gadgets - Put a table by the door to the meeting room. If you want to come in to the meeting, any electronic device you brought with you stays there, powered-off. No grazing until a break or when the meeting is over. The thinking: if you have time to fiddle with your iPhone, you're clearly not needed in that part of the meeting, so why are you and your device even there?
  • Remove the comfort - Related to the "no gadgets" rule, some groups are reportedly trying to reduce meeting time by making it less fun and comfortable to sit around for an hour or two. This can range from no longer "catering" meetings with food and water, to shutting off wi-fi, to more extreme measures, such as no-chair meetings.

Yeah, sure, some of these are extreme, and some may get you fired or punched in the nose. But you have to admit, people are conducting some fascinating evolutionary experiments. Tempting stuff.

The Question to You

Have you heard of any tricks that teams and individuals are trying to keep the madness at bay? Any that you can verify are being used in your own group — and are they succeeding or failing? For the mentioned tricks you find abhorrent, what solutions do you think might work better?

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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