The Frenetic, Jagged Pace
Last week I worked away from the office. I had a project that required large chunks of uninterrupted time. There was no way I was going to find that at work. So I left.
I’ve said before that my job is to be interrupted. And it is. As a manager, one of my primary tasks is to help others get their jobs done. Sometimes they can’t proceed until they have an answer to a question or a piece of information. My job is to grease the wheels of their workload so they can be as productive as possible. But sometimes I’m the one that needs to get something done. So twice in the last six months I’ve taken a week to work alone.
Even though it was work, just the different rhythm was refreshing. (And sometimes getting away is a source of great new ideas.) I find that emails, papers piling on my desk, phone calls, meetings, people at my office door—the frenetic, jagged pace of one hasty thing after another wears me down. Too often I have woken up in the middle of the night and not been able to go back to sleep for an hour or two—even when there are no major problems worrying me.
The feverish demands of work are not likely to diminish. They won’t go away. A fragile economy can only make us feel greater pressure to work harder and longer and faster. But we can control our pace rather than let it control us. Limits and boundaries and discipline are the tricks of that trade.
I have a couple friends who simply don’t do email—one because he won’t and the other because he can’t. (A true troglodyte.) They have the luxury, however, of having assistants through whom all their email come. Not all of us are so fortunate. But I can choose to limit when I do email at two or three times during the day rather than have it open and active every minute of every day.
What about when I'm on the road? The technology exists, of course, for me to be able to check my work email while I'm away from the office--at a conference, for example, or working offsite. But I've deliberately set a boundary by not asking our IT department to set me up with this capability. I don't want to be wired (or, more accurately, wireless) 24/7.
I don’t text. I don’t twitter. Maybe someday I will, but I hope I’ll have limits on them if I do.
Posted by Andy Le Peau
at October 21, 2008 11:59 AM
Setting limits like this to achieve a good work pace is really important. And figuring out what limits to set and when--setting limits that make sense in the context of your role--is just as important. Andy, your post clearly makes the case for the first of these, and I think it implies the second.
Because I'm working offsite and in a time zone that's 2 hours behind the main InterVarsity Press office, in-person and telephone interruptions are limited without my even trying. But because I'm managing IVP's website and other Internet communications, I have found that I need to be available by email and IM on a spectrum from constantly (during business hours spanning the east to west coasts) to occasionally (during weekends and holidays). Also I have to be active using RSS and other types of news feeds, podcasts, blogs, Facebook and other social networking sites, Twitter and text messages--not only to stay in touch with coworkers and get news from my industry and the larger culture, but also to immerse myself in new communications technologies enough to understand what the benefits and drawbacks are and how IVP might use them effectively.
The puzzle for me is trying to achieve a "happy medium" among three factors: my natural pace, the pace that's needed by coworkers and customers, and the pace that's possible due to my working environment.
I appreciate Sally's comment about " trying to achieve a "happy medium". I am self employed and work from my home office. I don't have any immediate pressures to make a lot of money but I allow myself to work many hours most of the time as if I did. I would love to give up e-mail even for a week would be wonderful. But I know I would come back to at 200 or more unopened e-mail. I have asked others to refrain from mailing me jokes but still that only addresses a very small portion of the on sought.
Still I am trying to gain more balance. In that endeavor I've noticed two things. One, I say yes too often and two, that I often feel guilty if I'm not working.
So I found your words of "But we can control our pace rather than let it control us. Limits and boundaries and discipline are the tricks of that trade." motivating. Hearing that combined with knowing I am (if nothing else) a tenacious woman recharges my hope that my goal for balance is obtainable.