What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Forgetting Tuesday. So as it turns out, when I have more than two days off I lose all sense of time and do things like completely forget to write a blog post in the middle of the week. Since the chances of finding too many four-day weekends in the course of a year is slim to none, I’m not worried that this will become a regular occurrence… but really any deviation from the normal schedule is enough to make me just a little bit twitchy, especially when it’s something as built into the daily schedule as writing. Maybe we are all entitled to an occasional misfire, but I like to think my inner sense of consistency is stronger than that. Apparently it is not.

2. Luddites. I work from home one day a week. To make that possible I rely on a lot of decades-old technology such as email and the telephone to stay connected to the home office. When I discover that my normal day for working at home is going to be shanghaied because I’m “needed” at the office, that usually translates into having to have someone available to flip the slides. That’s fine. Whatever. But when you’re going to want to do things like that could you please not let me find out that the person we’re staging this meeting for will be talking to us from his car on the way to some other meeting while I drag myself in to the office to huddle around a single land line like a congress of latter-day Luddites. If only there were a fancy device that let people hear voice communication from more than once location simultaneously instead of trying to pretend we exist in a universe where the best solution is two tin cans and a bit of string.

3. The oblivious. There are any number of awkward things that can happen in the modern office. Of them, the one that annoys me the most is probably the people who have no natural sense of when a conversation has hit it’s logical conclusion. They just continue to stand there looking at you as if you’re supposed to stop the world and entertain them for whatever duration their attention span can muster. Look, even when I’m not pressed for time, I don’t want to spend any significant part of the day in idle chatter. I’m just not that social. If you’re that desperate for social interaction, hit me up on instant messenger like a normal human being. I can work with that. But please, for the love of all the gods, don’t just stand there with your arms draped over my cube wall hoping that I’m suddenly going to get chatty. And yet I’d be the asshole if I just looked directly at someone and told them to go the fuck away.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Facebook live video. I get it, Zuckerberg. You did a neat thing and can push live video direct to my phone. That’s nifty. But really what I need my social media to do is compliment my daily activities, not attempt to hijack and monopolize them. One of the reasons I still like Facebook is it isn’t time dependent. I can check my news feed periodically throughout the day, check responses to comments, laugh at a few cat pictures, and then move on. Getting 20 notices an hour that friends and pages I follow “went live” isn’t helping. Thank God now that it’s become a thing you did at least give us a toggle switch to make it go away.

2. Rescheduling. If you have a meeting set up with one of the gods on Olympus and the date and time of that meeting gets changed three times in as many days, you know all you need to know about the priority of the effort in which you are engaged. Look, I’m perfectly fine being a low priority, but it would be helpful to know that well in advance so I can allocate my own time spent working on a particular project appropriately.

3. You and the team. I got an email a few days ago asking for “me and my team” to review something. While it’s adorable that anyone things that my work output is the collective group effort of some mythical team, it’s just me down here banging shit out every day. Those reports you’re getting, those briefings you’re reading, those endless meetings being attended, that’s me. It’s not a vast team of people coordinating this jackassery. I’m an army of one down here in the belly of this particular beast. However, if you do indeed believe this product to be the work of a team, I believe it’s high time we started talking about a step increase and a title bump.

The new old routine…

As everyone knows by now, I’m a creature who enjoys habit. I may not quite run like clockwork, but some days it’s damned close. Work, mostly is just another routine. Get up, show up, do the time, and get the hell out. There’s a rhythm to it and even when the level of stupid is unmitigated, at least you know there’s (usual) a fixed end time to the suffering. My approach isn’t quite Zen, but at least it helps stave off the madness most of the time.

The problem today is that after ten days off I’d managed to set myself into a different routine. Sure I was still waking up two hours before the crack of dawn, but it was to do actual productive things like reading, cooking, general home repair, or tending the menagerie. What I wasn’t doing is answering emails that would be unnecessary if people read the whole memo, or going to meetings that could have been emails, or trying to look attentive when someone was talking about the most recent time they were visited by the Good Idea Fairy. I liked this new routine. The fact that I’ll invariably find something to tinker with, or read, or be curious about is one of the reasons I know I won’t go stir crazy in retirement. If I’m honest, nearly everything that interests me occurs naturally outside the scope of the office.

Fortunately I have the capacity to put up as good a front as anyone. I can play the game when it suits me. It exacts a terrible cost, though, in that playing my part and adjusting to this new old routine is absolutely exhausting.

A finite resource…

It’s long been my opinion that three-day weekends are the best time to tack on extra vacation days. On a normal weekend, by the time the cooking, cleaning, and general upkeep is finished, it’s practically Monday. Extending that already long weekend into a 4th day, though, means time to get after some of the projects that never get to the top of the list during a normal weekend. This weekend, by example, was the first swing at bringing order to a basement that for the last 20 or so months has been not much more than a dumping ground for extraneous “stuff.” Now that it’s less prone to taking on water, the extra day gave me a chance to at least start turning the place into something useful. It’s going to take a few more days like that and a lot more shelving, but it’s started and that’s why I like the extra long weekend – they let me end a week feeling like something got accomplished.

Because every silver cloud has a lead lining, though, I couldn’t manage to escape the jackassery that is the American office. If I were a smarter man I wouldn’t have bothered checking the voicemail when I saw the number that left it. The boss calling two hours into your day off is never to tell you that there’s been a payroll problem and they’re crediting you with $50,000 in back pay. Still, curiosity got the best of me. Curiosity will, in all likelihood, eventually be a contributing if not a causal factor in my death.

Instead of an unexpected windfall the boss was letting me know that the uberboss called a “surprise” meeting Thursday morning, but that they couldn’t make any progress because I was the keeper of the particular nugget of institutional knowledge that they happened to need. Instead of pressing on with stiff upper lips, they decided they’d reconvene when I was back in the office on Monday. Except they won’t technically be reconvening when I’m “in” the office since the gods of Olympus decided to schedule the meeting after the end of my scheduled day.

It’s a small thing. A bare hiccup, really. The intrusion into what up until that point had been a blissfully quiet and content day off, however, was enough to twist my usual smirk into a decided sneer. My boss, knowing well my love of schedule and my grave distaste for hanging around after the close of business, did his best to spin the news – wondering if I could just come in late to offset the time at the end of the day. Wonderful, my reward for being the keeper of this particular bit of knowledge is that I get to jack up my day by coming in when traffic is at its worst, there’s no parking, and not going home until well after the sun has set. Excellent. Thanks for this outstanding opportunity to excel.

In and of itself, it’s nothing. What it represents, though, is much more significant and far more troubling. It’s an endemic situation where we continue to try cramming ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag. At least one other person should be as informed about my projects as I am, but we don’t have the manpower to provide that depth of coverage. There should never be a point at which someone at my decidedly junior level is able to foul up the works by simply taking a vacation day… and for the love of God, when you’ve put yourself in that position don’t expect that couple of good people you’ve got left to continually jump through their own ass to bail you out. Eventually the answer is going to be no.

Goodwill and desire to be a team player are a finite resource, especially when no one is doing a damned thing to refill the well.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Throughput. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: When you have X amount of time and Y amount of work, unless you’re managing things pretty closely the sum is almost never going to be zero. There will always be more work than time. The best most of us can manage is to prioritize the effort and try to get to the important stuff. If there’s important stuff that’s not being tended, it’s probably a good idea to tell someone it’s important rather than relying on them to read you bloody mind.

2. Scheduling. It’s Thursday night. The list of things to get done between now and Sunday evening is already twice what I should reasonably expect to get done. I shouldn’t complain since I make my own list, but still, I’d love to at some point have one of these nice restful weekends I hear people talking about. At least there’s a hard stop at about 8:30 Sunday night. The Dead are back and a man has to know where his limits are.

3. Election. Oh dear god how is this election not over yet? Please make it stop.

A fairly simple philosophy…

I have a fairly simple philosophy when it comes to whatever oddball projects hit my desk: Just get them done and move them off my desk as expeditiously as possible. Most projects don’t come with a lot of fanfare (and they come with even less recognition, especially when they’re going along without much trouble). The thing is when someone tells me they need me to do Task A, Task B, and Tasks F-N, I generally just focus in and get those knocked out as quickly as possible or in accordance with whatever overarching project timeline the Great Project Manager in the Sky set.

It seems so easy and straightforward, but in my experience as the nominal leader of various projects it’s anything but. On my very best days as a supervisor I had what can be described as a largely “hands off” philosophy. That is to say besides a periodic check on progress I’m perfectly happy to let members of the team go off and solve problems and get shit done in the way that most makes sense for them. The last thing I ever had any interest in being was the kind of boss who spent all his time skulking around looking over people’s shoulder. It wasn’t my style as a supervisor and it’s certainly not my style as a “coordinator.”

The downside, of course, of my particular style and workplace methodology is that it relies on other people doing what they were supposed to do both on time and to standard. That, friends, is almost always where your average project will start to fall off the rails. As it turns out there is a large and growing number of people who can’t do much of anything without close adult supervision. I can only speculate that they’re nice enough human beings, but getting things done just isn’t their particular forte. That’s where we have a decided clash in philosophies.

If you’re looking for the guy who is going to double and triple check everyone’s work, sooth their nerves, and pin their mittens to their coats before sending them out in the cold, I’m so not the one you want to put in charge of the effort. You’re going to be disappointed in the results. It’s not so much that I don’t care about reaching the desired outcomes as it is that I refuse to hand hold or spoon feed professionals who have been at their jobs as long or longer than I have. Do you job. Don’t do your job. I won’t worry and hand wring either way, but you can bet your sweet ass I’ll chunk you under the bus at the first available opportunity.

Scheduling…

If spontaneity were measured on a scale of 1 to 100, I’d rate myself somewhere around a -36. I like it when there is a plan. It provides order in the face of a chaotic world and clearly delineates options and deflection points where things could go astray. A good plan is a thing of beauty.

Since time immemorial my weekly plan has designated a 45 minute block of Saturday morning for carrying out the week’s primary sustenance acquisition. Given the onrushing storm that’s being hyped without end as Snowpocalypse 2016: The Revenge of Global Warming, planning for a Saturday grocery run seems somewhere between overly optimistic and potentially foolhardy. That means there needs to be a deviation from the schedule in order to pick up fruit and vegetables, meats, coffee creamer, and the rest of the assortment of items that made the cut this week.

Sure, the plan for the week makes allowance for deviations, but now it’s put me in a position where I’m going to have to fight the masses who are religiously unprepared for a minor disruption in their supply chain in order to pick up my basic groceries. While I could ride our a day or two of snow without putting a dent in the canned goods stockpile, fresh food on hand his just better all around. Sadly, it means a direct confrontation with the bread, eggs, and toilet paper crowd sometime in the next 48 hours.

It’s going to be stupid and angry making and precisely the kind of thing a decent plan should prevent. I’m going to have to reevaluate the whole damned schedule now.