If you ever want to see what a monumental waste of resources looks like, I’d consider the average office on any given Friday between Thanksgiving and New Years to be the perfect place to begin your case study. Sure, there are a few things going on and there may even be an occasional fire that needs dousing, but for the most part, inter-holiday Fridays are more dead air than anything else.
Some of the problem is structural. The end of the calendar year has three major holidays stacked within six weeks of one another – that jumps to 4 holidays in eight week’s if you include Veterans Day. Still more of the issue traces back to basic personnel practices – specifically to and especially for some offices being staffed by senior people with years of experience whose compensation package includes a maxed out weekly allotment of annual leave. That leads to a lot of people all needing to burn off a large number of vacation days the closer it gets to December 31st. Fridays are a perfect target of opportunity for burning off those accumulated hours.
Even knowing there is a laundry list of reasons why Fridays this time of year are near useless doesn’t contribute much to making them go by any faster when you are one of the unlucky few who isn’t burning off vacation time in eight hours incriments. At worst, these days can be moments of understaffed panic, at best, slow death by boredom. I really have no idea which of the two is worse.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think of an original post to cap off the week on a Friday night. With the archives now well and truly exhausted, though, I’m left with no choice.
What I’m thinking about doing, now that there’s a more than twelve year deep back catalog of posts, is to use Friday evenings to revisit some of the “best of” posts from the last 4,380+ days. Maybe this is the chance to trot some of the golden oldies out of the barn for a fresh look using something like an “on this date” format.
I’m giving it some thought – do I add fresh commentary, note where I’ve changed my mind and where I haven’t, try to provide some fresh insight? Yeah, I don’t know yet.
The thought of going on a deep dive expedition way back to 2006 is equal parts tempting and terrifying. I like to think that in the intervening years my writing style and substance has improved. Then again maybe it hasn’t. Honestly so much of that was written so long ago I’ve entirely forgotten it. I want to imagine that the Jeff who’s sitting here at the keyboard now is very much a kindred spirit to the one who wrote those early posts. Believe me, you don’t want me to delve too deeply into how much of my self-identity is tied up in being blissfully consistent.
So, I guess the only think I’ll say tonight is “we’ll see.” If next week around this time you find yourself reading something dated from 2006, don’t worry. You’re not caught in a time warp, it’ll just be me doing more excavation of the past in the never ending search for clicks.
I’ve had it with this week. It hasn’t been particularly busy. It hasn’t been particularly trying. It hasn’t been anything other than completely ordinary, but I really have had it. Neither my head nor my heart are in it. If I can feel it that strongly, it’s got to be showing.
Fortunately, I’ve been hoarding vacation days since the beginning of the year and pulled the trigger to double the size and duration of this weekend – Effectively pulling Friday right up into the middle of the week. It’s remarkable how much my mood improved by firing off just that little bit of paperwork.
Some people would drown that extra-long weekend in Netflix or find their way to the beach or the mountains. Me? Well, I’ll be mulching if anyone needs me. There’s something deeply satisfying about working in the dirt. Maybe it’s hard-wired from pre-history when our hunting and gathering ancestors gave way to their agrarian progeny. Then again maybe it’s just nice to see a finished and physical product coming together at the end of a day’s work. That’s not something you find much of in a world ruled by spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides.
Whatever the reason, I know I’ll feel better once my hands get in the dirt – and maybe after a few days of going to bed physically tired instead of just mentally worn out.
If you spend any time on social media you can’t help by notice the inundation of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday – as if Friday was actually part of the weekend and not just another fifth of the regular work week. As for me, my #FridayFeeling is largely one of profound disinterest – apathy mixed with a deep desire to be almost anywhere else (war zones and 3rd world countries excluded). Mostly, though, it’s a desire to be at home, with a good book and a stiff drink, surround by fuzzy animals. At this stage of life my desires are modest and reasonable.
It’s increasingly hard to remember there was a time when I was actually ambitious – when I wanted to go places and do things. It’s even harder to remember there was a time when I had the mental energy left over to make those things happen. That’s especially true when the here and now is so often taken up with just trying not to fall asleep during a staff meeting and smashing my face into the table or drooling all over myself.
1. The help. OK, so here’s the thing… There’s a point in the life of a project when it is no longer a good idea to throw additional bodies at the problem. Two or three months ago, when I started asking for specific assistance was the time to allocate resources. Ten days before the light turns green and this things has to work is not the time to offer up “whatever help you need.” In fact adding new people at this point is pretty much only going to slow things down and make everything harder to do. We have long since crossed the line of departure after which I will either be able to manhandle this shitshow across the finish line myself or it will collapse in a catastrophic and spectacularly public manner. There really is no third option now.
2. The National Capital Region. Loosely defined for my purposes as the District and the counties of Maryland and Virginia abutting the federal enclave, the area usually makes my list because of their abysmal ability to deal with even the most well forecast snowfall. This week they make the list because those feds operating in and around the NCR have gotten themselves a “free” day off tomorrow. I get the logic of not wanting a few hundred thousand workers coming into the city when a million or so people are swamping the place for the inauguration, but I want a day off too damnit. Back to back three-day weekends would have been perfect.
3. Due dates. Here in the land of making things more difficult than they need to be, we call due dates “suspenses.” These suspenses are what tells us how long we have to work on various action items. The idea is simple enough. The problem is the near universal belief that it’s wrong and immoral to send anything out “before its suspense.” The very idea seems asinine to me. My intent, every single day, is to get things off my desk and on to someone els’s as quickly as quality allows. Hanging on to stuff just because it isn’t due yet has got to be one of the most patently ridiculous things that happens on a regular basis… Which is really saying something because we are full to the rafters with people doing absolutely ridiculous things.
1. Friday afternoon. What kind of jackass sets up a meeting on a Friday after 4PM? Time, being the precious resource that it is, the start of the weekend should be even more sacrosanct. It should be inviolable. It should be the most iron-clad and immutable moment of the week. But no, because no one has the good sense to tell someone with a little bit of power that it’s a stupid idea, the weekend will be indefinitely delayed by another meeting that could have probably been an email.
2. Diagnostic analysis. I’m an analyst. It’s what I do and probably does a good job describing who I am as a human being. Generally when someone wants an analysis “on the fly,” I can reach into my back of tricks and give them the back of the napkin version without much trouble. Now when you tell me that the issue is a non-replicable fault, can’t identify who discovered the issue or what was actually reported, want it done without the benefit of credible trouble tickets or help requests, and no other direct method of measurement, well, basically what’s left is polling the operators and asking if everything is performing within normal parameters. If they say yes and the automated metrics agree with them, then the analysis is complete, there was no fault, and all systems are behaving normally. Analysis complete. I don’t know what else to tell you.
3. A good week ruined. I started off on Tuesday with a less than usually jaundiced view of the world. I was well rested for the first time in I don’t remember how long. Dare I say I was optimistic of having a reasonably good week. That nonsense didn’t last out the day of course and it’s been a straight mud-soaked slog through to Thursday night. If I can put my head down and bull my way through the next three weeks without a heart attack, a stroke, or setting the building on fire, I should probably consider it a job well done and never think of it again. Until next summer. When they whole damned thing starts over again.
I don’t usually post on Fridays because they tend to be the black hole of blogging. No matter how interesting a post you have, no one is going to see it anyway so it’s generally better to hold it for the next week.
Today is one of those rare exceptions to the rule simply because this is the 5 year anniversary of my transition to WordPress and the introduction of jeffreytharp.com. Big milestone here. It’s the rare bird indeed that manages to hold my attention through 1,826 days, 37,628 views, and 500 comments.
Thanks to everyone who’s been around since the beginning. Welcome to those who are just joining us. I like to think I’m still getting warmed up and finding my stride in the digital world… so we’ll just have to see how thinks look in another five years.