I’d guess that on average three weekdays out of every five could be fairly described as being “less than full.” Now I don’t mean to imply in any way that I don’t strive to give our Uncle his money’s worth every time, but there are simple laws of the bureaucracy that say it’s impossible to be busy every moment of the day. This isn’t McDonald’s and there isn’t always stainless that needs wiped down. Usually our days have an ebb and flow that ranges somewhere between comfortable and mind-numbing. It’s that one day in five that’s the wildcard. When it comes along it’s like being stuck with a whole room full of one armed paper hangers. No matter how fast you work, it’s just not going to be fast enough to account for everything coming over the side. In my experience, that’s the nature of the beast.
The real trouble with those rogue days is that they’re absolutely unpredictable. Days that for all outward appearances should be busy won’t be. Days that by rights should be dead slow will open their gaping maw and eat you alive. It would be nice, I think, if those wide-mouthed days would at least give you a fair warning. It feels like the very least the universe could do if it’s bound and determined to spend the rest of the day kicking your ass all over the room.
Occasionally, without knowing exactly how or why the day just kind of gets completely away from you. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have something to show for a day like that. More often, in my experience, you just suddenly look up, realize the whistle is about to release you from your toil, and find that there’s not much you can point to in the way of good solid results to show for your time.
If I were a business management guru, I’d probably conjecture that it has something to do with disjointed days broken up with too many meetings, (attempted) multi-tasking, the time thief that is email, and the ever present danger of employees lingering a bit too long over their social media accounts. Alas, I’m no guru, but just a guy sitting here at the keyboard so what could I possibly tell you about such things?
Given an option between being a little too busy or a little too bored, I’m apt to choose busy if for no other reason than it does seem to move the day along at least a touch faster. At tis point anything that even gives the impression of getting me back to hearth and home in a more timely manner is a net good overall – even if it’s only illusionary. Sometimes the benevolent lie is good enough.
I know I was busy today. I have the meeting notes, calendar invitations, and seemingly endless chain of emails to prove I’ve done something today. I try not to delve too deeply into differentiating simply being busy and actually getting things done. The two are most decidedly not synonymous. I’ve long since given up on making an official distinction between the two. In my estimation on any given day as long as you look busy, people will assume you are busy. That’s one of the great double edged swords of working for Uncle.
So is there virtue to being busy even if you don’t really have anything to show for it? Well, it passes the time if nothing else. When you live your life eight hours at a time, I suppose that has to count for something. A quick eight hours is usually preferable to a slow eight hours. That’s not universally true, of course, because there are some days that go quickly only because they are so full of unimaginable levels of stupid. Stupid can be a deal breaker – because at some point things can easily get so far sideways that a slow day would just be less anguished.
I can sit here and ask myself what kind of day it’s been, but that probably misses the real point. Just now, busy or slow, it’s the best kind of day – the one that is quickly receding into the rear view of life. I’m not nearly that Zen, of course, but I have important business to attend. After all, dogs and cats aren’t going to learn to live together all by themselves.
Most days I muddle through with one eye on the news, social media, and a few choice blogs just to keep a grip on what’s going on in the world. The news makes me crazy, but the only thing worse is not having a clue what’s happening in the world. On days like today, though, I emerge at the close of business like a mole – eyes squinted, vaguely confused look on my face, and a general confusion about the world that everyone else has been inhabiting. The days when I’m tethered to PowerPoint, email, and God help me, to meetings are really the bane of life in Cube City. I’m not saying I expect vast swaths of free time in the middle of the day, but a few minutes now and then to come up for air might be nice.
Worst of all, of course, is that blogging on near-daily basis means I burn through a lot of ideas in a very small amount of time. I rely on the news of the day and unfortunate dealings with other people as a primary source. When neither of those two things happens, it means the well runs dry pretty damned quick. That’s how you end up getting a post about not having any idea what’s going on in the world instead of one about what is actually happening. It’s a small matter of semantics, but it makes a big difference.
So there you have it. The Russians could have overrun all of Ukraine and we could have made first contact with an alien species all at the same time and I’d not have a single clue any of it was happening. In some ways I’m probably better off for it… but posts complaining about not having anything to post about will only cary me so far. Eventually, I suspect someone is going to want some actual fresh commentary and content around here. Or maybe not. The interwebs are a fickle place.
The problem with running all day like a house on fire is that you reach a point round about 5PM when all you want to do is sit down and sleep. That’s all well and good, but there’s also that little obnoxious voice in your head reminding you that there are still things that need done… like writing a witty and entertaining blog post on Saturday night. Yeah, I’m honestly not sure this post is going to be either witty or entertaining. I’m not really complaining. I really did get alot done today and since this has been my first weekend home in the last three, I feel good about that. Still, I’d rather not have looked up and realized it was going on 8PM. Maybe I should have cut off the productivity a little earlier. Of course then I’d be sitting here obsessing about the list of things that didn’t get done today. It’s a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Just one of life’s little hardships.
I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to a much abbreviated to do list for tomorrow. Beyond blogging and taking on a few other odds and ends, my only hope is that it’s a good day to get a little more writing done. Sitting down with a good book for an hour or two would just put the day over the top. I’m trying to manage my expectations.
It’s Saturday! Woohoo! That’s what my inner 17 year old sounds like – full of good intentions and great expectations for the day. Of course after getting up, feeding the dogs and tortoise, changing everyone’s water, making coffee, going to the dump, picking up groceries, sitting in “plant expo” traffic on Main Street, putting groceries away, making lunch, letting the dogs out to burn off some energy, dragging the week’s laundry to the basement (but not yet starting it), dragging the vacuum up from the basement (but not yet using it), and finally sitting down to blog, I’m not entirely sure Saturday is “Woohoo!” worthy. As far as I can tell its only redeeming quality so far is that it’s not a work day. While that’s quite an achievement, I’m think we can do better. Yeah, this would be the part where my inner 70 year old takes over and is pretty much annoyed by everything… especially the reality sets in that I work harder on Saturday than I do any other day of the week and for way less pay.
I generally make a point to avoid using this as a venue to talk about work. For one thing, it’s just bad form to grouse too much about the people who sign your check. For another, work is hard enough without everyone looking around wondering what embarrassing story you’re going to tell next. Finally, work is usually the last thing I want to talk about when I’m not, you know, at work, so most of those stories never get written, let alone see the light of day.
This post isn’t going to break that mold in any meaningful way, but I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that other the last week and a half has been a real mother. It’s been seriously busy. And I mean busier in the last ten days than any other tend day stretch in the last 17 months. It’s not that the work is any harder, just that there seems to be more of it… and between flu, random sickness, planned time off, meetings, uncertainty about the budget, impending sequestration, no raise for 3 years, and a host of other things, I think it’s safe to say the whole place is just in a mood.
I don’t know what the remedy is, but for the time being the best course of action is probably just keeping my head down and doing my best not to draw unnecessary fire. I’m not wishing my life away, but 4:00 Friday afternoon can’t get here fast enough.
When President Lincoln fired General George B. McClellan, he cited the general’s “case of the slows” as one of the primary reasons. It seemed that no amount of prodding, pleading, or gesticulating from the White House could convince McClellan to actually use the splendid army he built to mercilessly crush the rebel Army of Northern Virginia and end the Civil War.
Now I’m not quite as opposed to a couple of slow days as Lincoln was, but I have my issues with them. First and foremost, slow days seem to drag on forever… Like when you look at the clock on the wall convinced it must surely be time for lunch only to discover that it’s not quite 9:30. Being busy can leave you battered and bloody, but at least it does seem to make the day go by. Counting ceiling tiles has its own special charm, but you can really only do that so many times before you go batshit crazy… and surprisingly, even Facebook gets remarkably quiet during the early afternoon hours when everyone is working.
Maybe the worst thing about not being particularly busy is that you start looking over your shoulder and wondering if it’s just you or if everyone else is bored to tears but just afraid to say anything out loud. I’ve been around for the better part of a decade now and know that there are two generally slow times of year; from around Memorial Day through the 4th of July and the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year it seems to catch me slightly off guard as I transition from whirling dervish to terracotta warrior and back again.
So I’ve been a busy little beaver this weekend. Keeping up with the pups is, as always, a full time job unto itself, but I’ve finally managed to finish my Christmas shopping and get it wrapped. Winston went to the groomer’s for a bath and nail trimming last night and I cleaned the house and caught up on email, filing, and getting some pictures organized today. I even managed to steal seven hours of sleep last night so I’m feeling downright fantastic. Of course now I have to start thinking about what I need to do to get on the road back to Maryland next Saturday, but in light of my other successes this weekend, I’m deferring all trip planning until at least tomorrow. It’s Sunday and after all, it is a day of rest.
Does someone want to tell me how the hell it’s the 30th of September already? I’m serious, goddamnit. Who the hell authorized this? I’m feeling a little bit like somewhere between moving and playing road warrior, I’ve somehow managed to miss most of 2007. I have vague recollections of doing things, but the actual coherent memories are few and far between. That’s probably not a good thing.