World of Work

Working hard at Procrastination

Procrastination. It sounds such a positive activity. We all love Crastination! Crastination for all!

Verb; To crastinate:  to dither about doing anything other than what is required at that time.

Presumably someone who does everything smartly to time, besides being anally retentive and a colossal bore, should be guilty of anticrastination. As I am a definite Pro on the subject of crastination,  I should be a Grand Master Crastinator.

I don’t see anything wrong with procrastination. Lots of useful stuff gets done as a result. I just wish it didn’t take up so much time to put off doing the things that really should get done. There is a time and place for everything, as they say. However finding precisely when that time and place is for certain tasks is profoundly challenging for the Grand Master.

There are a few things I really want to spend time on. These are my noble and cerebral exploits. And given that these are exploits of my own choosing, one would think they would be easy to slot into my working day (now free of any real ‘work’). But no. Grand Master Crastinator that I am, I find attending to the small and mundane tasks to be infinitely more satisfying than the noble deeds to which I wish to assign my time.

I have three personal goals at this point in my life. That’s it. These are the only things I should be focused on right now. So how do I lose days, weeks and months to ‘other stuff’? How do my Time Bandits (© Terry Gilliam) manage to rob me of whole days and weeks?

We all have our Time Bandits. Laundry is so much more vital than revision; alphabetising the book shelf really must be done before the assignment which is due tomorrow. And so is true with my own goals. Even though these are challenges I set myself, things I truly want to accomplish, they are challenging. They are arduous and hard. And so I find myself whiling away the hours on useful, necessary, but not essential activities instead of applying myself to what I really should be doing.

Take writing. I want to write, I truly do. I want to create, and gain wider recognition for my work at some point. But finding the time – there’s the rub. Even with no work to hinder me, the hours and days run away and still no words appear. My latest diversion was to create a calendar so that I could plan out when to write. Yes, I spent time planning when I could have been writing!

Procrastination is the bane of life for so many of us. Why do today what could just as easily be done tomorrow? To quote despair.com:

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Not quite the same – I’m busy, just not doing the right things.

So how do we arrest these pesky Time Bandits? With a Plan, of course (just not as an excuse to actually working), but moreover with a rethinking of Priorities.  I like the tale of the rocks, gravel and sand. You may have read a similar tale:

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life

A teacher took a large jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. When the rocks reached the top he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher took a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

He then emptied out the jar and refilled it in reverse order: Sand, pebbles, then rocks. This time, he could not fit all the rocks into the jar.

“What changed between these exercises?” he asked the students. He saw a sea of blank faces.

“The jar represents your life,” said the teacher. “These rocks? They are the most important things – your family, your friends, your health, your interests. The things most central to your being.”

He picked up a handful of sand and a handful of pebbles. “These,” he said, “represent the little things, the necessary but not important, the routine tasks. As we saw, if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there is no room for the rocks.”

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand and gravel.

With this parable in mind, my focus is now more firmly on my goals. So if you drive by my house and see the lawn overgrown, paint peeling and a gate swinging on its hinges you will know. I’ve finally got a handle on my rocks. Either that or the Cialis finally kicked in.

Change is Tough!

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Change is positive, change is good. Change is what allows us to grow, to expand our horizons, to seek out new opportunities, to boldly go where he have not gone before (for all you Trekkies).  All true. Without change we would turn inwards, wither on the vine. And yet, every time we change we leave a little something behind. We turn our backs on a part of what made us who we are. You see, every change, no matter how desired, requires sacrifice.

Equally, every change, no matter how well planned and thought through, will never be implemented with the ease or simplicity it should. No matter how much we might crave the change we bring upon ourselves, it never seems to work out quite as effortlessly or as smoothly as we’d imagined. Did you ever notice that? Fitting new into old always seems to require more adjust than it ought, whatever the change we are bringing about.

Let’s start with the simple material changes. Try redecorating. Start that process and you are painting the Forth Bridge (Canadian readers – google here). Do the walls and the ceilings need doing; start with (more…)

The Boiled Frog

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the boiling frog – place a frog on cold water and then heat the water gently. The frog will adjust its body temperature to the warming water until the water gets too hot for him to control, and then he will die. Utter fallacy scientifically but it serves as a very effective metaphor for life. Just replace the boiling pan for a nice cozy hot tub, containing all the material things we value. Look inwards and life is good – we have our soft comfort of life, few tough challenges and a soft, safe existence. Over the shoulder is the cold, harsh reality of life and opportunity. Sure, there might be fantastic experiences and golden opportunities – but they are out of sight from where we lie – and they might not actually exist. Far easier to stay in the safe, warm comfort isn’t it? But the water is slowly heating up. One day the safety and security we crave might actually cause our demise if we don’t take the opportunity to step out of the pool from time to time, check the temperature and readjust as necessary.

Lots of metaphor there – so to bring this back to reality – who here has seen the pounds slowly creep upwards on the scale with the passing years? Who has seen their physical activity slowly decrease year on year? Who here regularly spends their income on the essentials of life – toys, vacations and ‘stuff’, secure in the knowledge that there will always be another paycheque to top up the coffers? Who has allowed their relationship to drift into the ‘comfortable shoes’ stage? We all know that every one of these examples is not sustainable for the long term. Those extra pounds keep on piling on until we get into health problems – same with the lack of exercise. The spending can carry on, sure, but actually how secure is that job? What would happen if it suddenly disappeared due to a takeover or a life event that stops us working? What happens when one in the relationship doesn’t like the comfortable shoes anymore and wants to live life more fully? None of us wants any of these things – not going to happen to us is it? We are all charging into an action filled retirement adventure full of travel, exotica, fitness and good health, and with a passionate relationship to boot. But unless we step out of that steaming hot tub to reassess what is really important to us now and in our future, then we are not controlling our destiny – it is controlling us.

It’s not easy – most folk will usually only step out of the pool when forced, be it through a job loss, relationship failure, medical emergency or something equally as drastic. And even then, most of us do not or cannot make the life changes these life events require. Lost your job? First thing to do is jump right back into another pool. Sure, the unexpected heat in the fresh pond might make us squeal, but we quickly adjust to the new reality of more responsibility / less pay / different people etc. Relationship on the rocks? All too easy today to set up an account for one of a dozen Ashley Madison copycats. Medical emergency? Ah, well we all know we could make those life changes if we had to, we just don’t need to yet, right? But well over half of all people given a critical diagnosis can’t make even one of the necessary life changes – and less than 5% can make them all (typically lose weight/change diet, exercise and give up smoking are the top three).

Given the choice, pretty much everyone will just slip back into the warm waters, even knowing that’s what is slowly killing them. And that’s normal because change is tough. Change involves letting go of what we know, the apparent safety and security of the present. It involves taking action and beating a new path with all the inherent risk. It might lead to failure, embarrassment or worse. Yes. Yes it might. But it might also lead to personal, financial or spiritual freedom and success. That new path might lead to incredible new experiences and new friendships. It might start you on a journey of health and vitality that will certainly add life to your years, if not years to your life.  So I believe it behooves us all to step out of the pool once in a while and do a life balance check. Make sure that the path we are on is the one we want to be on, for all the right reasons. Because in the words of the great Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Where Next?

For the past year or so I had grown bored with my job. The transformation program I had been working on was largely done and we were now into the day to day. My team and my work was 500 miles away so I spent my days on conference calls, remote from the every day camaraderie of the office world. Sure, things got done and done well, but the work was mundane and without real challenge. I had given myself 18 months – aiming for the magic Freedom 55. And then the decision was taken away from me.

One day, back in October, I got the letter so many colleagues before me had got. The meeting was full of empty platitudes – bit like being dumped really – ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, that kind of thing. Bottom line – I’m out of the door with a very sizeable cheque and the freedom I had been craving. Except it didn’t feel that way. First thing I did when I had picked myself up was start a job search and blow the dust off my resume. In the first two days I had scoured all the job boards for anything vaguely suited to my diverse skills and had fired off a done applications. I made lists of my network contacts, set up appointments and followed up on leads – desperate to take charge of my life and prove my worth. I see that as the equivalent of the rebound – if you don’t want me I will date the next available warm body to prove my attractiveness.

Within two weeks I had my first interview – went horribly, but then I’ve been out of the dating pool for 7 years, so to be expected. After that, though, I began to settle into this new reality, and my new job became, get a job. I’m getting first dates, the odd second date, but that’s not the point of this post. Point is, I’m not sure why I’m even trying to get another job. My carefully analysed and reviewed financial plan shows I don’t need to work, so it’s not for the money.

I think it is purely down to the fact that I was not in control of the decision – and that’s the root of the issue for anyone involved in change. If you try to force a change on someone, and they don’t have time to accept and buy-in, it will not go well. The change model I used in my work states you need people to have awareness of the need for change, and a desire to participate and support the change as basics entry points, otherwise the change will not go well.

In my case, the forced change meant there was no handover for my team and workload. Files were simply deleted and a huge amount of work and effort was lost. The company will never know what they lost because they simply didn’t bother to ask. For me, the change meant rejection and so that immediate need to prove myself by getting another job.

Three months in and the new paradigm is settling in. Post Christmas I don’t have the fire to keep up the networking – kissing frogs I call it – and so I now need to sit back and reflect on where I want my journey to take me. I’m still not sure what I want next. I consider myself ‘potentially retired’ right now, but in reality, I know I would jump back onto the carousel if and when the opportunity arises.

I would like to think I can accept this new opportunity for what it is and use the change to do what I’ve always said I want to do – write. I’m finding new passions for sure. I’m learning guitar and Spanish, I’ve blown the dust off my old slot car racetrack, I revamped my blog and intend to post again (this being number 1). But can I actually follow through, or will the need to show my ‘ex’ what they lost win through?

Time will tell.

Under Pressure

Extreme pressure can turn a lump of coal into a flawless diamond, or a perfectly average person into a complete basket case.

Why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves in situations of extreme stress or pressure? Sure, sometimes these situations just happen, but many times, we are the architects of our own demise. Hoisted by our own petard, as the edumacated might say (though likely they have absolutely no idea what a petard is, and whether being hoisted by it would be a particularly painful and embarrrassing experience – kinda like a wedgie, or merely just an embarrassment, like accidentally going into the ladies washroom and being caught with your pants down, so to speak).

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Whatever, we frequently make the rods for our own backs, and then flagellate ourselves with this same rod. Our desire, ambition, drive and motivation; all are driven through some inner desire for betterment, or just possibly by that green eyed monster of Avarice. And what’s worse; we instill this into our kids from day 1 – pushing little Johnny into the hockey program with an eye on the NHL and million dollar contracts, or putting little Jasmine into every single program available so we can re-live our childhood ambitions by proxy.

The younger generations are able to wear rose tinted glasses as they imagine their futures. We wore them too; we ripped them off the faces of the older folks who were too busy telling us to wait, and thus getting in the way of our progress. And now it’s our turn to pass the glasses on, we rese what the world looks like without any filtering. With the benefits of unimpeded hindsight we can see the journey we all took, and the journey our offspring are now taking. And we can only watch as these bright young things, all full of the vim and vigour of youth stoke up on exciting visions of career goals and success. They have the stamina of youth to fuel the hungry engine of ambition as they strive to do it better, do it faster, just fucking DO IT, then move on and move up. They climb over each other, treading on fingers and heads to be in line for the next big project, the next ‘opportunity’ to prove their worth and get the next step toward the corner office and ‘success’.

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Eventually, most will realise that the ladder is actually a circle, and that every step up they take turns the wheel a step further. The faster they run, the faster the ladder moves beneath them. Eventually, they will realise they are actually in a hamster wheel, spinning the wheel faster and faster but not actually going anywhere. But until that dawning of the realisation, the pressures to succeed are huge, and largely self-created. But before this realisation they will run faster and faster, push harder and harder. Until each bigger job, each promotion, each step up to the next rung of the ladder squeezes them just a little more. And in the process too many will squeeze out room for the things that really matter like friends, family and experiences – those things that make us thankful to be alive, young and healthy. Maslow’s hierarchy calls these the self-actualization moments. I call them the moments we truly realise we are alive in this world

This past weekend we were at a show in Halifax, all about tourism and the Atlantic Canadian lifestyle. Invariably there are craftspeople at these shows. Incredible craftspeople, making the most beautiful products. And I am always in awe of these people and their life choice to avoid that hamster wheel and the pressures we career junkies put ourselves under. Sure, they might not make six figure salaries, but they are making something much more valuable – they are enlivening people’s lives with a thing of beauty, and they are giving those career junkies something to spend their hard earned cash on, after all.

I will give a nod and a link here to my own brother who largely eschewed the paper tiger of career and made his own path through life. Along the way he created many beautiful products, some of which sold, some of which flopped. Right now, he’s landed on a product which is quirky, fun and innovative. You could do worse than pop on over to Tinkuleles.com and browse through his fun Ukuleles made from recycled tins and hardwood. He takes a large tin – candies, biscuits, lunch pail – all work. He then creates the neck from recycled hardwood, adds the frets, keys, strings aetc and creates a funky and functional ukelele – the funnest string instrument ever! I had meant to write a longer post on Tinkulelies for my T post but then my own ‘Under Pressure’ moment inspired my Time post and the moment was lost.

And so as my career path begins a slow wind-down, like the hands of an under wound watch, I’m looking at the creative side of life. Words are my thing (as I hope you can tell) and I want to believe I can have some fun and make some folks laugh a little, cry a little, maybe light a few fires of passion, just so long as I don’t make the mistake of pressurising myself into a new career, full of the same old frustrations and self-imposed ambitions.

We all crave success in one form or another – recognition from others whether spiritual, financial, physical or emotional. I implore you to be mindful not to pay too high a price for that success in the currency of broken dreams, broken hearts and lost opportunity.

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Under Pressure is my U posting for A to Z Challenge 2015.

Fantasy

So here I am, sitting in my writer’s den looking out across a clear blue lake to the distant mountains. As I look out I can see my girls getting ready to take the seadoo out for a spin. They love bouncing around in the inflatable behind the boat. Louis, the gardener-cum-handyman is piloting today so they can both enjoy the thrill. They’ve really taken to water skiing too since we moved out here. Their education is taken care of with a private tutor. It’s amazing how much more they learn when they can actually see the places they are studying – ancient history isn’t so ancient when you can walk in the footsteps of emperors, and climate change actually means something as you walk across a glacier.

My wife is over at the farm outbuildings tending to the shelter animals (mostly cats, but life can’t all be perfect). She took up the reins when we could privately fund the shelter. Now she insists on visiting every home before a pet is placed, hence the reason the shelter is bulging at the seams already. It’s not as if they have a bad life here though, what with the 24 hour kennel staff and the living space fit for a queen.

When I’ve finished this little update I’m going to take the Aston Martin out for a spin.The mountain roads down to the beach are absolutely breathtaking, and the feeling of Mediterranean sun is so amazing. I’ve a lunch date down in Cannes –  a director wants to introduce me to his latest starlet, to tempt me to invest in his latest venture. Apparently I can get a walk-on part and a 10% return when the movie hits the box office, and every previous release was an absolute blockbuster.

Next week we are flying to New York for a Premier. we might head up to Boston whilst we are there. I have a standing invitation these days to Robert Kraft’s box at Gillette Stadium, ever since investing in his regeneration program. From there I fancy giving the girls a tour of the Grand Canyon to get some first hand geology lessons and invest in the native reserves out there. We will also go get our hands dirty on a Habitat for Humanity site to give a little back to society.

I never thought my numbers would come up, but every week I took the chance to dream about what might be if they did. The planning paid off, and ever since taking that $50 million cheque to the bank we’ve been changing lives wherever we can, and we still have plenty left over to keep the family in luxury for several generations.

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F – part of my AtoZ Challenge 2015 series.

Christmas Hell for HR

This email funny has been kicking round on the interwebs for a few years, but being in the HR profession, I see the truth behind the comedy. Pandering to the squeaky wheel of the vocal minority at the expense of the majority is a fact of life. I’m all for equality, but I’m also for democracy, which last time I checked, means majority rules. For one, December 25th is Christmas Day, not Holiday Day. If your faith doesn’t celebrate or recognise Christmas, no problem! No-one is asking you to take part in something you don’t believe or accept.

I’ve also seen too many incidents of employees failing to take responsibility for their own actions. Just because there is a bar, doesn’t mean you have to drink. Why should the company pay for cabs home? I don’t see bar owners paying for cabs for all their patrons on a nightly basis!

SO, in the spirit of the season, HAPPY CHRISTMAS !!!! And if this isn’t your thing, no offence is intended or implied.

December 1…To All Employees

I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will be held on December 23rd at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue. There will be lots of spiked eggnog and a small band will play traditional carols…feel free to sing-along. And don’t be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus to light the Christmas tree.

Exchanging gifts among employees can be done at this time. Please remember to keep gifts to the agreed $10 limit.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 2…To All Employees

In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday and often coincides with Christmas (although not this year). However, from now on we’re calling this party our Holiday Party. The same policy also applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no tree or Christmas carols sung.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 3…To All Employees

Regarding the anonymous note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table, I’m happy to accommodate your request but please remember that if I put a sign on the table that reads “AA Only” you won’t be anonymous any more.

In addition, we’ll no longer be having a gift exchange because union members feel that $10 is too much money.

Patti Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 7…To All Employees

I have arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest away from the dessert table and for pregnant members to sit closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with gays; each group will have its own table. And, yes, there will be a flower arrangement for the gay men’s table.

Happy now?

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 9…To All Employees

People! People! Nothing sinister was intended by wanting our CEO to play Santa Claus. Even if the anagram for “Santa” does happen to be “Satan.” There is no evil connation to our own little “man in a red suit.”

Patti Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 10…To All Employees

Vegetarians! I’ve had it with you people. We’re holding this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not. You can just sit at the table farthest from the “Grill of Death” as you call it, and you’ll get salad bar only including hydroponics tomatoes. Tomatoes have feelings too, you know. They scream when you slice them. I can hear them now. I hope you have a rotten holiday.

You Know Who This Is!

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December 14…To All Employees

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness. I’ll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime management has decided to cancel the Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

Terri Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director