Let it go

I hate PowerPoint. Do you?

I realize it seems odd to have such a negative opinion about computer software. To be honest, PowerPoint is pretty handy. It would be impossible to create presentations without it. I still remember overhead projectors and creating “foils” that, once created, were a big hassle to change.

I joke that if I only had 15 minutes left to live I would spend it working on a presentation in PowerPoint because it would feel like forever.

But, do I really hate PowerPoint? Actually, what I really hate about it is that, because the software is so easy to use, it feels like a presentation is never finished? Basically, you can work on a presentation right up until the moment you project it on a screen. You can keep tinkering with it long after the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I keep tweaking it many hours after I should put it aside and move on to something else.

Endlessly editing PowerPoint slides is something that made me miserable at work. There was a constant commentary running in my head: “Is every slide perfect? Did you check it? Are you sure the font is the same size on all of the slides? Did you include the right graphic?” The list of these nagging questions was endless and would somehow take on a life of its own, like an evil puppet master pulling my strings, making me do a PowerPoint dance.

The feeling of never finishing something was one of the most frustrating feelings I had at work. And if I was going to be happier at work, I had to find a way to confront this behavior and move on.

It wasn’t easy. I had to retrain my inner voice to shout: “Step away from the keyboard!”  Still, to this day, I probably still spend more time fiddling with a presentation than I should. But I now set time limits for how long I will work on each presentation, depending on the number of slides I need. I set intermediate checkpoints to make sure I stay within my allotted time and occasionally I do have to allow for more time than I had originally planned.

Perfecting PowerPoint was one of many old behaviors I had to let go of to make myself happier at work. But it was hard to let go: the old behaviors were the ones I knew best; how could I abandon them? I felt like I was leaving a kitten by the side of the road.

Yet in the end, it was PowerPoint that cured me.  I started focusing on the “what” instead of the “how.” I created presentations in PowerPoint because I had something to tell someone (the “what”), and PowerPoint presentations (the “how”) are great visual tools for communicating an idea. Once I understood that the “what” was more important than the “how,” I found a talented graphics designer who could take my rudimentary slides and turn them into PowerPoint works of art.  I still wanted a fabulous looking presentation, but I could let go of creating it in PowerPoint myself.

Gee, what’s the best PowerPoint graphic for letting go? I know—it’s a smiley face!

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