Monday, December 21, 2009

Focus, Part II

So, I'll level with you. The ending to this story is only partly happy. It's a bittersweet sort of ending. I hate to disappoint, especially since this is my pet problem at work, but this is the sort of battle that, I think must rage on. It might just be one for the ages, like the dryer vs. matched pair of socks battle, or the Endless Struggle to Balance Work and Home Life. It's just like my current battle with my laptop to capitalize things when I push Shift. What's up with that, laptop? (My laptop apparently does not like me talking smack about it, as it just froze up during that last sentence, and threatened to lose communication with Blogger.)

So, when we left off, I'd identified the reasons I wasn't working, and was about to plunge into the dangerous waters of actually doing something about it.

I first decided to make up my own solutions, because that always works. In all honesty, though, having identified my problems, I felt pretty powerful, because, as you may have heard, knowing is half the battle.

The battle's second half began with a daunting challenge: Lack of Resources. For those of you playing along at home, that's the part where accessing the files I need, and saving those files once I've altered them, takes FOREVER. I cannot change this, but what I can change is what I do while waiting for my computer to do its thing. I needed several very small tasks (or, failing that, several very quick time-wasters) to tide my mosquito-like attention span over until files could be uploaded to or downloaded to and from the mothership. I decided, instead of cracking open the old Google Reader (which generally leads to an hour or more of non-productivity), I would create a cache of small tasks, like clearing off my desk, or watering my plant (a cactus), to keep me more or less focused on work while waiting for my computer to catch up. Barring legitimate tasks, I allowed myself to read one webcomic, not a whole series, before checking back to if work had appeared.

This . . . didn't work. I probably would have done better to just try and zen out and wait, doing nothing. Once distracted from the task at hand, hauling my attention back was nearly impossible. I believe this is what the Internet likes to call a FAIL.

Moving on, Lack of Guidance. Ok, this one I could tackle. I am a smart cookie, and I know what needs to be done. I decided, instead of waiting for some larger entity to hold my hand, that I would take my large, amorphous tasks, and break them down into manageable chunks, step by step. This strategy was moderately more successful. Once I'd taken the time to write out the baby steps required to complete my tasks, I didn't find my eyes glazing over as much when confronted with my task list as a whole. Smaller tasks are easier to accomplish, and not as overwhelming. They're also much more satisfying, since "Create a Manual" only gives you one cathartic check mark per couple of months, but "Identify Missing Content," "Download Missing Content," and "Add Downloaded Content to Table of Contents," can all be accomplished in an afternoon, resulting in personal pats on the back all around.

The only problem with this solution? Issue #3 from last week: Lack of Accountability. While my Outlook Task List was very proud of me for accomplishing my mini-tasks, nobody else gave a hoot, and after awhile I didn't give a hoot, either. Breaking down my tasks into mini-tasks just started to feel like one more task . . . one more task that I didn't really have to do.

Clearly, it was time to call in the big guns. I needed to ask my old friend the internet, who had been so effective at distracting me from my job, for help in getting down to it. The upside: I could almost call this working, so I could do it while on the clock.

Stay tuned for next week's Long Distance Blog!!! Work Blogging while on vacation my be sacrilegious, but somebody's got to take one for Team Workplace, and since I am the team's only member . . . well, see you after Christmas!

Happy Happy, Internet!

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