Monday, December 14, 2009

Finding Focus: Part 1

For this week's post, I decided to dive right in and tackle my biggest challenge at work, and the issue that prompted me to start blogging in the first place: staying focused.

Like many office dwellers, I have unrestricted access to the internet at my place of work, which leads to untold opportunities to divert my attention from the task at hand. The internet itself, however, would probably not be enough to distract me from my job (I like my job, after all, and genuinely desire to do it well), were it not for a number of other forces working against me. Since knowing is half the battle, I set about to diagnose my distractedness disease before seeking a cure.

With this in mind, I kept a log for one week of exactly what I was doing at all times, attempting not to correct, but merely observe. The results, to say the least, were depressing. The ratio of productive hours to distracted hours is too embarrassing even to post on a relatively anonymous internet blog. Suffice it to say that I sincerely hope this is rock bottom, and that I can only improve from here.

After recovering from my shock at the tattered remains of my work ethic, I analyzed my carefully recorded ramblings, and identified three main obstacles that I believe are keeping me from being the laser-sighted super-employee that I wish to be.

  1. Lack of Resources: That is to say, lack of computing resources that can keep up with the pace of my job, and my attention span. I work at a satellite, thousands of miles from my company's main location, and thus thousands of miles from its computer servers. In this day and age of lightening-fast connections and enormous bandwidths, this wouldn't seem to be a problem, except that I must connect to the shared file system via a twisted, tangled path of firewalls, VPN (Virtual Private Network)s, and other hurdles, all of which require seemingly endless passwords and patience to navigate. Once connected, a file that would take less than a second to open were it located on my own machine, takes well over a minute to navigate its way from the mother ship down to me. Well over a minute, I have discovered, is the exact amount of time it takes for my eyes to glaze over, and my brain to say, "Huh. Wonder what's going on over on LOLcats . . ."
  2. Lack of Guidance: Being a satellite often means that the mother ship forgets about me for months at a time, assuming all is going swimmingly unless I start making noise. When decrees do come down from on high, the tasks are often enormous and vague. Create a Manual. Organize Vast Stretches of Data. Investigate Avenues of Improvement. Like a sculptor facing an enormous block of marble, with nothing but a tiny chisel, and, for that matter, a very limited knowledge of the art of sculpting, I often look upon these monumental undertakings and think that perhaps now would be a good time to break for lunch.
  3. Lack of Accountability: When my boss leaves the office for a meeting or takes a sick day, I know I'm sunk. She rarely checks in on me even when she's there, but the chance that she'll walk into my office with some question or other, and catch me looking up wedding hairstyles instead of Creating, Organizing, and Investigating is generally enough to at least get me to try and focus. When she's gone, so am I.

Now, I'm not proud of these obstacles, and they seem pretty pathetic when set out in black and white, but I've got my diagnosis, and that, at least, is a starting point.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series, when I will attempt to first tackle my problems myself, and then cave in and go looking for outside support.

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