Thoughts on productivity and being boring

Jun 30, 2011

In my work as a communicator I’m always looking for examples of good practice and tips on how to be more effective at work. I’ve been thinking recently about what kind of communicator I don’t want to be (not thinking of anyone specific, honest!) to try to keep to the point and stop myself becoming too tedious.

I came across a great blog called What’s the PONT and a post there on things people do to make a meeting fruitless and the rules on doing this from The Simple Sabotage Field Manual published in 1944 by CIA predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. It’s a brilliant ‘what not to do’ list for us all.

The manual is still useful for anyone wishing to halt progress, particularly in meetings.  For example, the blog post tells us of tips including:

•             “Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.” 

•             “When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.”

•             “Attempt to make committees as large as possible — never less than five.”

•             “Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.”

It reminded me of an essay by Hilaire Belloc I read in an old book I bought ages ago (which I typed up in full here) on how to bore people rigid as a tactic. Belloc says, “any subject can be made interesting, and therefore any subject can be made boring; but the method is all important.”

Using bits from ‘A Guide to Boring’ I want to add four points to the eight-point What’s the PONT meeting saboteurs checklist which is here:


•             “Hesitation over a date:  ‘It was in July 1921 – no now I come to think of it, it must have been 1920, because -‘ (then tell them why it must have been 1920). ‘No, now I think of it, it must have been 1921’ (then tell them why it was ’21) – ‘or was it 1922? Anyway, it was July, and the year doesn’t matter; the whole point lies in the month.’”

•             Umming and ahing and worrying “about a name which you have forgotten, and which is in no way material to your story.”

•             Introducing “digressions, especially of an aesthetic or moral sort …Your private opinions in art and morals are the most exquisitely boring things in the world and you can’t bring them in too much.”

•             Adding “all manner of local colour and descriptive touches” and “pile on the adjectives.” Which brings to mind some bad advice from Jilly Cooper on the TV Book Club: “‘A man riding down a road on a horse’ is a boring sentence. ‘A man in a red coat riding down a green grassy lane on a grey horse’ is a beautiful sentence”. Err, no it isn’t.

Any other tactics missing from the list?


Photo by Adam Bindsle


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Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

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