Thursday, April 24, 2008

Five Ways To Be Happy With Your Job

Most people have to work. Sad but true. So why not grab a little gusto? Make the most of a difficult situation, and continue to be a breadwinner for the family. They'll appreciate it as they sleep in.

Office Supplies

Have you checked out some of those new Post-It thingies? Awesome, baby. Just sticking a couple on my flat screen brightens up the morning immediately. And now Sharpies come in all these amazing new colors - even personalized! Now, imagine this: writing stuff on the Post-Its with those Sharpies!


Juan Valdez is an American hero! And he's Colombian! Office workers like caffeine!

Think about it. You get up and go get some coffee. Use a mug, not a styrofoam cup. Styrofoam clogs landfills, and besides that you don't get to stand at the sink and wait for the water to get hot, then rinse out your mug - do a good job! - then find something to dry your cup with. You get the picture.

And hey, be a good cubicle neighbor, and make another pot if at all possible. Plenty to feel really good about: protecting the environment, having a clean mug, serving the people around you...

Now go outside and take a smoke break before you work yourself to death!

Smoke Breaks

You don't have to smoke to enjoy a smoke break. Those are some nice people, and they get to waste - oh, nobody knows exactly how much time they waste - anyway, go out there and visit a little bit. Management by walking around!

Try to stand upwind.

Sharpening the Saw

I borrowed this sub-title from Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It's code for Reading in the Restroom. It's best if your restroom is for one person at a time. That way you can just lock the door, displaying the little "Occupied" sign, probably in red, and shut out the world. For, you know, concentration.

Next problem: getting quality, saw-sharpening reading material into the restroom. Some people are blessed. They just don't care what anybody thinks, and they take an entire armful of reading material to the restroom right in front of everyone.

We're not all so bold. If your desired reading material can be printed out, then by all means do so. As long as it's not too many pages, you can simply fold it up and put it in your pocket. If it's the size of a magazine, you can wrap it around your ankle, sticking it in your sock. All your paperbacks need to be mass market size, because these can be easily put in a back pocket or a purse.

If it's really too thick of a printout, divide it into two piles. Get some rubber bands. Now take your shoes off and wrap the piles around your feet, securing them with the rubber bands. Walk to the restroom like you mean it. If someone challenges you on the way, just tell them the Tony Robbins thing didn't go so well.

Me Time

After all that, you're probably exhausted. Rest well, brave warrior! If you have an office door, use it. Print up a banner that says "Power Hour!" and put it on your door from 1:00 to 5:00. This will fend off all but the most cynical.

When someone does breach your defenses, transparency is widely respected. Let your shoulders droop and even let the outside corners of your eyes sag a bit (this takes practice in front of a mirror). When you have the look just right, tell them, "I just need some alone time." Woggle your head slightly. Don't overdo it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calling Geraldo

Where is Geraldo Rivera when you need him?

Here's an msn article by John W. Schoen, senior business producer. In it he mentions that "since some traders have no intention of ever using the oil, prices can also move on just the potential for future changes in supply or demand." Then he goes on to say, "Right now, oil producers — both countries and companies — are among the biggest winners."

I fell out of my chair. Bob, my cubicle neighbor, began to laugh.

"You just read that article on oil prices," he said.

"It's the traders!" I squeaked. "They're traitors!"

"What about the oil companies?" said Bob. "They're raking in the dough, too."

I sat there in the floor, contemplating my navel. It was my x-ray vision that allowed me to see it through my shirt and tie. You know, I like a shirt with a little bit of rayon in it. It hangs better - the extra heft is comforting as well. Oh, sorry.

"Why isn't Geraldo on this?" I said.

"Hey, you're right!" said Bob, snapping his fingers. "It's so obvious that..."

"The oil companies..." I said.

"Have an incentive program," said Bob.

"To futures traders..."

"To artificially run up prices..."

We just looked at each other, frowns creasing our sweaty little foreheads, marvelling over this diabolical bit of brilliance. Obviously, consumption is about as high as it can be... Oh, quibble all you want, but fluctuations at this point are going to be marginal.

But if you can double your pricing in two years without increasing cost very much... Of course, consumers would crucify you - crucify you unless you can blame it on something high and mighty, something the public holds in awe, something pure and yet wholly obscure, something that defies logic and reason, a veritable holy grail... Market Forces!

Market Forces are widely believed to be infallible, infallibility historically being the Pope's province, located somewhere in a broom closet in the Vatican. Market Forces are therefore the perfect foil; in a Market Forces vortex, accountability levels go to zero!

I relayed all this to Bob in a breathless rant. He handed me an unopened water bottle.

"I'll email Geraldo," he said. "This is big."

This is big.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

To Do List Seeks Amnesty

My to do list is sorry.

"What have we learned?" I asked it the other day. It would barely look at me.

"My eyes were bigger than my stomach," it mumbled.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't make that out."

"My eyes were bigger than my stomach," it says, eyes flashing up at me.

I raised my eyebrows and pursed my lips. "Do you think that's really called for?" I asked.

There was no response. We sat there for several minutes. I whistled a bit, feet up on the empty guest chair in my cubicle. I checked my watch; scrolled through the phone book on my cell. The list began to stir a bit, rustling it's wrinkled pages.

"I just wanted..." it began. I looked up from clipping my fingernails.

"I just wanted to do my part," it said. "I just wanted to make a contribution, to give you some direction, some inspiration..." It paused again and looked at me. I was studying my fingernails.

"Umm," I said.

"I thought," it started again. "I thought if you had a big list - you know - a really comprehensive list that... that each of your next actions would really become clear - self-evident, really."

I looked up sharply. "Have you been talking to the inbox?" I said.

"Never mind all that," it said, ignoring me. "I'll be good from now on." It seemed to make a swallowing sound.

"I promise."

My Inbox Wants to Be Free

"If information wants to be free," says my inbox, "then why can't I be included in that?"

"Have you been reading Getting Things Done again?" I say. "You know that makes you cranky."

"I'm cranky now? Is that it? Am I Tibet to your China? Why don't you say it to my face?"

"I just did."

"No, I mean now. Say it now."

I sigh. "David Allen makes you cranky. There. I said it."

"And why would that be? Hmmm? Ever think about that?"

I think about ordering up an order of bacon from the restaurant next door. They make a good western omelet, too.

"You're thinking about food again, fatty," says my inbox.

"That's personal," I say. "And how do you know what I'm thinking about?"

"I know you," it says. "I read your mail."

"Oh boy," I say, shaking my head and rolling my eyes.

"And read it and read it and read it some more. It just sits there in my inbox and uses up cycles and disk space, and not to mention all the 'open loops' in that wrinkled little thing you call a mind."

"It's 'open loops' today, huh?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" says the inbox.

"It was 'next actions' last time," I say.

"Those are important, too!"

I decide to close Outlook. The disk churns madly, its LED blinking so rapidly that it goes solid for a moment. Then something like a quiet burp, and a blue screen silently swims into view. General protection fault. Freedom doesn't come cheap.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Fantastic Survey Experience

She had just talked to my cubicle neighbor, who refused to take a survey over the phone. Then my phone rang.

"I bet this is her," I said.

"Probably," said my neighbor. I picked up the phone.

"This is Emmitt."

The nice lady said she was with some company I had never heard of from San Diego.

"Are you by any chance," I interrupted her, "a survey taker?" I was using my most pleasant voice.

"Ah, sir, this is a follow up to information we received last year from your company..."

"Okay," I said, "that's a good point because I'm afraid that the original contact may have been an illegal survey. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Well, sir..."

"And for quality assurance purposes," I continued, "I may have to record this conversation. Are we clear on this?"

At this point the aliens pointed their fantasy vortex ray at my head and turned on the beam, because what the nice lady seemed to do was really unlikely. In fact, maybe somebody shot me with Douglas Adams' improbability gun from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"Sir, I'm sorry for any hassle," she seemed to say, "and I want to apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you. Have a very nice day. Goodbye."

She had hung up. I sat there listening to dead air over the speaker phone. People were clustered in the doorway of my cubicle, and I looked at them, expressionless. They began to cheer.

Is Impatience One of the Seven Deadly Sins?

There are famously two kinds of people in the world: the patient and the impatient. One is a virtue and the other is a pain in the neck. Just how you view this lack of patience usually depends on the identity of the person lacking it.

When it's me, it's simply that I'm frustrated. When it's you, you're being unbearable, unreasonable, and some unsavory type of toxic something. In fact, when I'm the impatient one, good reasons exist and have caused me to lose patience. I'm late to work and someone's vehicle is in front of my vehicle and is preventing me from achieving an acceptable cruising speed and normally I would be glad to give them all the sightseeing time they feel they need, but right now, today, time is the one thing I don't have, and so would you get your vehicle out of my way right now?

I need to just pull over and get some coffee or something. Not gum, because tooth action just begets violence. There's enough of that in the world.

I wonder how much violence is the result of impatience...

I could pull over and just call the office and let them know that today is not a good day so far, and in a brave, bold attempt to head off certain disaster I am simply phoning in my intention to get there as quickly as possible, without killing anyone first. That means something to me, and I would think that it might mean something to them, especially if they want to see that database updated anytime soon.

I could even - and this is a worst case scenario - I could tell them that I will stay late by however much to make up for it. The point (and this is in a totally David Allen, GTD kind of way) is to simply eliminate the toxicity (tox - iss - it - tee) from your body. It's like a psychic anti-oxidant!

My response to the bad ju-ju of impatience? Just let it go.