Schedule Tetris

If you want to get into the proper mood for this post, here’s the theme song (but it’s probably playing in your head already):

The AU Summit – my first – is going on now. As observer members we are not invited to a lot of the official events, but that doesn’t stop the State Department from sending a bunch of high-level people into town to take advantage of having so many African Heads of State and Ministers together all at once by organizing a ton of bilateral meetings on the side.

I have been designated as the lead scheduler, which means churning out dozens of dipnotes and making endless phone calls to maximize the amount of productive diplomacy that can be squeezed into these few short days. There’s lots of twisting and turning and shifting back and forth trying to make our delegation’s meeting schedule fit with the meeting schedules of more than twenty other delegations, all of which are constantly in flux. And then, when you finally get something settled, an official session runs long, and  you start all over again as everyone scrambles to reschedule the meetings they missed.

I have spreadsheets. SO MANY spreadsheets. Priority spreadsheets and communication status spreadsheets and actual meeting time spreadsheets, and I am moving things around like crazy on all of these spreadsheets and the master schedule just trying to keep up with the new information coming in on two phones, on email, and in texts. And then I have to call/text/email other people to pass that new information on to where it needs to be. And just like the game, the pace keeps getting quicker and quicker.

I clutch my phone with both hands, frantically banging away with my thumbs like back in the old Game Boy days, but I’m texting the latest updates rather than moving colored blocks around. And yes, sometimes I hum the Tetris theme song to myself while I do it.