Dec 11, 2008

"I'm not worried about that, I have my ass covered with paper." -- Carl Something or Another, a boss in the 70's. Blogger Bitchlet asked yesterday about how we manage our time. My time management technique is called, "No time like the present". My attitude is, do what can be done quickly, so that I have time to work on the things that are more complex That leaves one less thing to worry about. It seems to me that most things just take a minute or two and getting them out of the way, makes life less complicated down the road. Tom Peters, management guru, once pointed out that doing things quickly gets you ahead of the pack and still leaves time to fix it if you screw up, since the losers are still planning what to do. I spent thirty-eight years in corporate America, mostly stuck in a cubicle, a lackey for the man. These years staring at the cubicle walls and perfecting the 'nap sitting up', gave me many opportunities to observe the time management techniques of my co-hostages and to contrast them with my own. It seems to me that many of the "busy" people are only busy because their system is so screwed up or they mistake process for productivity. When it comes to time management, most people have their head up their arse. For many years I sat near a guy who was a serial doer and the worst time manager I've ever seen. His poor time management left him overwhelmed by pissed off customers and constantly barraged by things left undone. Most bosses are too lazy or too stupid to deal with guys like this, so for years he has 'gotten to it, when he gets to it' and the boss just went along. This fellow was not able to prioritize his work in any way; things happened in the order they came to him. Nothing was more important than anything else. Chronology was all that mattered. To make the problem worse, he never actually answered his phone. Every call went to voice mail and messages were only retrieved at specific intervals. I'm not exaggerating when I say that he scheduled his time to return calls. Each voice message was logged in a spiral notebook, in the order that it was received. Calls were returned in that order, regardless of their urgency. A call at nine telling him his house was on fire, would be answered only after the call asking for his fax number which came in at at eight fifty-nine. I kid, but not too much. Unfortunately, one of the big drawbacks to this system is, that when returning calls, he often got someone else's voice mail and the cycle would begin anew. Our work involved receiving lots and lots of correspondence from governments and construction contractors. Because this fellow was a control freak, he had all this correspondence routed to him, some of which he kept and some of which he sent on to guys like me. Every piece of mail he touched was logged into his book and noted, always in the bottom right hand corner and in always in red pencil, with the date he passed it along. It was important to him that, should anyone wonder about a specific piece of mail, he could consult the giant book and tell when he forwarded it along. No one ever asked as nearly as I know. In keeping with his system, he was unable to just toss out the junk mail. Everything was logged and processed. I got great satisfaction from the times when he came into my cubicle to pass along something. I loved it when I could just glance at it and toss it into the trash. If he was bothered he never let on. When he gave work to his assistant or asked me to help with something, it was always accompanied by a cover sheet explaining what to do and the note, "Return to John Doe", as though I might forget who gave it to me. The form provided tons of information that was unnecessary or self-evident, but since he had a spot for information on his form, he felt it must be filled out completely. He kept a copy of the correspondence and cover letter in a binder. John was the most unproductive busy person I've ever met. And the sad part was that he thought he was invaluable. Sad, but common. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky

12 comments:

alphabet soup said...

Just a thought indeed!! I will jot this down in my little notebook and think about it later...

Ms Soup

Megan said...

We aren't allowed to let the phone go to voice mail.

Anonymous said...

the unproductive super busy person. yes... they live lives filled with drama they create.

Coffee Messiah said...

Funny how this experience has not changed, even in a small company, such as the one I'm now residing.

Today is 3 1/2 hrs of forced Christmas cheer.

If you know me at all, this kind of function ain't 4 me.

Especially when the uppy ups never bother to look you in the eye and say anything the rest of the year.

Layoffs, party, and a turkey for christmas, how much can they be hurting you may ask? So much, we even get paid to attend the party and do noting ; )

Cheers....

tut-tut said...

How's his 401K?

Reya Mellicker said...

Ummm ... the guy had obsessive/compulsive disorder which is a lot more severe than just being a bad manager of time. They have meds to control that kind of thing.

I, too, once worked in a cubicle and like you, I always had more time than I needed to do the actual work of my job. It drove me crazy.

Much preferred working in restaurants, something else I once did because either you're busy, or they send you home. There's no standing around in restaurant work.

Same goes for my job now. I'm either busy or I'm not working.

The corporate world is such a bizarre place!

Kurt said...

Reminds me of the school district I used to work for. Whenever you called them, the phone either rang and rang, or it went to voicemail. Once, after many tries, I got the person on the phone that I wanted to talk to, and I mentioned my voicemails, and he said "I don't have time to listen to my voicemails!"

Perpetual Chocoholic said...

There must be a person like that in every office! When I was reading your post I was thinking of the one woman like that where I last worked. Scary!

Adrianne said...

"It seems to me that many of the "busy" people are only busy because their system is so screwed up or they mistake process for productivity. When it comes to time management, most people have their head up their arse."

Truer words were never spoken.

bitchlet said...

You just described the Indian bureaucratic system.

bella rum said...

Amazing but all to common.

Steve said...

I had an editor like that once. She had absolutely no filter, which is a terrible quality in an editor. She'd bring me every useless press release that crossed her desk. Invariably, I threw them all away.