Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Perils of Having an EA Schedule All Your Meetings

Feeling overwhelmed with meetings and calls? If you’re using an executive assistant to schedule everything, that may be the source of the problem. Execs heavily dependent on EA’s for scheduling can easily become over-scheduled with low priority appointments. For two possible reasons as I see it…

First, exec wants to say “No” but can’t. Busy people often know, deep down, that they don’t have time to do a random meeting or phone call. But they can’t say no because saying no to somebody will disappoint them and cause that person, at a subtle level, to dislike you in that moment. Most of us strongly desire to be liked. So replying “Sure” and handing the interaction off to an EA allows you to win social approval in the moment, and the interaction disappears into a magical scheduling queue. And then you get back to work. No social disappointment, no studying your calendar in the moment, no immediate cost.

Alternatively, exec wants to say “Yes” but it’s a momentary emotion. The exec genuinely believes the meeting request is worth doing in that moment. “Hey great to hear from you, it’s been a long time, yeah let’s definitely hang out soon!” The EA is immediately CC’d. But. If exec had only spent 2-3 minutes encountering logistical friction when trying to schedule it herself, she would realize that, upon reflection, the benefits do not outweigh the costs. If your desire to do something cannot withstand even the slightest amount of friction, it’s probably not something you actually want to do. I analogize this to seeing books for sale on Amazon. When I encounter a book on Amazon that looks interesting, I often want to buy it right away. Instead I add the book to my wish list. When I visit the book’s listing a day or two later, I oftentimes find myself less interested in buying it. The enthusiasm turned out to be temporary. Adding a little bit of friction to the buying process causes me to be more honest about my true interest level. Adding scheduling friction to your meeting requests has a similar effect.

To be clear, there are opportunities to get scheduling leverage out of an EA. For one, EA’s are great at helping you schedule internal meetings — regular calls or meetings with colleagues. EA’s also are great to introduce at Round 2 of the logistics ping pong game. What I tend to do when I say yes to an external meeting request is to personally offer a few times that work for me and see if I can just schedule it myself in one email. This helps me internalize the “cost” of the meeting as I’m saying yes — I’m having to spend a few minutes looking at my calendar, hunting for convenient open spaces, and offering those times in a message. If none of my times works and the thread turns into a ping pong game of dates and times, and I’m still motivated to do the meeting, and the status dynamics make sense (i.e. I won’t offend a higher status person who’s scheduling with me directly), I’ll hand it off to an EA to finalize the scheduling process on my behalf.

Bottom Line: EA’s can give execs leverage, especially around scheduling. But if not managed thoughtfully, an EA-only scheduling process can cause you to become quickly over-scheduled with appointments you would not, with full perspective, actually prioritize.

What I’ve Been Reading

Recent books.

1. Feel Free by Zadie Smith. Collection of her non-fiction writing over the past many years. Lovely as always, with Smith. Skip around and pick the topics that tickle your interest. It’s quite a diverse compendium. I enjoyed it. To be sure, Tyler Cowen said he “spotted several intellectual and emotional fallacies” in the collection. I read it for the quality of the writing.

2. Heartburn by Nora Ephron. A famous novel from the 80’s, I finally got around to reading Ephron for the first time. I found Heartburn consistently laugh out loud funny, and insightful too. Some highlights.

On being single versus married:

One thing I have never understood is how to work it so that when you’re married, things keep happening to you. Things happen to you when you’re single. You meet new men, you travel alone, you learn new tricks, you read Trollope, you try sushi, you buy nightgowns, you shave your legs. Then you get married, and the hair grows in. I love the everydayness of marriage, I love figuring out what’s for dinner and where to hang the pictures and do we owe the Richardsons, but life does tend to slow to a crawl.

On systems of thought that can simplify if you’re not careful:

When I talk about it I sound a little like one of those starlets on The Tonight Show who’s just stumbled onto Eastern philosophy or feminism or encounter therapy or any other system of thought that explains everything in the universe in eight minutes.

On loving versus hating someone you marry:

You fall in love with someone, and part of what you love about him are the differences between you; and then you get married and the differences start to drive you crazy.

On crying:

The first is that I have always believed that crying is a highly overrated activity: women do entirely too much of it, and the last thing we ought to want is for it to become a universal excess. The second thing I want to say is this: beware of men who cry. It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.

3. Bandwidth by Eliot Peper. Eliot’s new, widely heralded sci-fi novel got published today! Very timely. Eliot has his pulse on the Valley.

4. Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Milan. Great advice on how to think about how to relate to dogs. Recommended for first time dog owners. Cesar’s Netflix show Cesar 911 is also amusing and educational.

5. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. A bit repetitive. Sleep is vital, and the author manages to say this in 50 different ways. I’m convinced! I already was convinced. I did glean some practical tips though:

  • I’ve been turning off my bedroom light as soon as I get in bed and reading only by the light of my Kindle before sleep. He discusses the impact of light in the bedroom and the importance of getting into a dark room as quickly as possible as you try to fall asleep.
  • I now splash water on my face each night before getting into bed. “It is no evolutionary coincidence that we humans have developed the pre-bed ritual of splashing water on one of the most vascular parts of our bodies—our face, using one of the other highly vascular surfaces—our hands. You may think the feeling of being facially clean helps you sleep better, but facial cleanliness makes no difference to your slumber. The act itself does have sleep-inviting powers, however, as that water, warm or cold, helps dissipate heat from the surface of the skin as it evaporates, thereby cooling the inner body core…Consequently, you fall asleep more quickly because your core is colder. Hot baths prior to bed can also induce 10 to 15 percent more deep NREM sleep in healthy adults.”
  • I more aggressively use A/C or a fan. “A bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3°C) is ideal for the sleep of most people.”
  • I will ask doctors who need to perform work on my body how many hours of sleep they got the night prior. “If you are a patient under the knife of an attending physician who has not been allowed at least a six-hour sleep opportunity the night prior, there is a 170 percent increased risk of that surgeon inflicting a serious surgical error on you, such as organ damage or major hemorrhaging, relative to the superior procedure they would conduct when they have slept adequately.”

6. Reset by Ellen Pao. Powerful personal testimony and a call to arms about diversity in the tech industry. Required reading for all VCs, at a minimum, if not everyone who works in tech.