This amazing Dilbert piece by Scott Adams describes excellently what is really going on in many of our heads (or at least mine) when forced to pretend that tight deadlines make any sense.
To be clear, I’m yet to come across a tight deadline that worked. Rush-rush stressy projects are usually only a rush until the client suddenly comes across a decision they need time to sit and think about. Because guess what. In life things come up that we need to sit and think about. To not foresee that is humorous. At that point obviously the rush-rush attitude goes out the window because the client prefers to make the decision carefully. After that either the rushing is again expected or there is a new understanding that things will happen at a more natural speed.
The dude sitting there with his cup of coffee is also making a pretty important yet seemingly unknown fact. That most of the work we’re doing is not a matter of life and death. For most of us, although it feels like it matters, those extra few weeks (or months in many cases), like in this cartoon, are not only fine, but often they’re actually good in the long run.
I don’t know why but I repeatedly see website development clients pushing their service providers to rush. Is it just in web development or are clients of all kinds pushing their service providers to do everything faster? And better too, I’m sure.
To the chagrin of web dev clients the world over, I believe there are certain words that should never be used when discussing building a website. These include:
Work for a client should ideally be done in a normal amount of time, but is it really necessary to make it urgent?
And here’s the irony. Almost every single time, at one point in the project (if not more), the work comes to an absolute and complete halt. I mean 100%. And not because of the web developer or project manager or graphic designer.
Nope. At some point, the project stops because something happens to the client. They realize their attention needs to be put elsewhere for a few days/weeks/months. They run out of cash. They find they have difficult decisions to make regarding the site. So many possible reasons, with the exact same outcome: a project that’s on hold.
I find rushed projects to be problematic but it isn’t only because of the stress of having someone push and push, feeling like you’re never working fast enough. It’s also because I know – I just know – that there is a 99% chance that this mad rush to the finish line will stop so fast that the worker will be left trying to figure out what just happened.
Being part of a regular flow of a project is fine. Sometimes it moves faster, sometimes slower, sometimes it needs to be put on hold for a bit. But after being pressured by a client to rush, when the client becomes the one to hold up the project, it’s tempting to start giving them talks about the importance of keeping a project going, even if under normal circumstances the delay wouldn’t have bothered you too much.
The talk won’t work, though. Because the same way that the project should have moved at a natural pace to begin with, including fast movement, slow movement and pauses, it will need to stop when the client needs to take that breath, whatever the reason may be.
And that’s OK. And you know exactly why. The reason it’s OK for the project deadline to be pushed off is because it wasn’t really urgent. Nope, it was just a really nice website that hopefully one day soon will be a really nice live website that will be enjoyed by all who visit it.
And when that happens, it’ll be really lovely.
Not at all critical.
I always find it so strange when people take things for free and then complain about them. Like Facebook. OK fine, complaining about Facebook is one of the tenets by which our technologically-connected society lives.
But to think that something better is actually coming to you from these services is absurd. It’s like getting a present from someone and complaining to them that it isn’t good enough.
Unfortunately we really are getting in that mindset. We’re aware of the better things out there and we’ve been trained to get lots of free things so that we’re beginning to think that that’s how it should be and if it’s different, we’re being screwed.
Dan Ariely, in the video below, talks about what a big leap there is between free and practically free. Once something is free, starting to charge for it is very difficult.
I’m always curious to see what happens the day Google starts charging for services like Google Analytics or Google Apps. Ah, an interesting, revolutionary, sobering day it will be.
I may never forget the Holocaust but how can I remember it if I wasn’t there?
The survivors can’t remember all alone. Especially as they get older, their numbers are dwindling and, as Melabev put it, a lot of them physiologically literally can’t remember anymore.
But truthfully, the Holocaust is full of untold stories of people who died along with every single person who ever knew them. There is no one to remember them individually and so they are only part of our collective remembrance. It is our job to remember them.
And so we do it. We all join the band of the surrogate memory-bearers so that the survivors can have some peace of mind, knowing that although we don’t understand, we will try and although we can’t remember, we will never forget.
Two days ago, on my birthday, I began an experiment where, for a week, I am forcing myself to do what I think I should be doing (instead of making excuses to myself).
Just now I was looking through my Facebook newsfeed and when I came across a photo album by my friend Christina, I scrolled right by because I love looking at her photography. Yes, that’s why I didn’t want to look at her photos. Because she’s so talented and I’m scared about my future and thinking about what a great photographer she is made me question if I’ll ever be able to be successful in my own life.
I admit that’s what happened and yes, it’s quite embarrassing.
And then I stopped myself. I realized that I always love looking at her pictures and that right then what I needed to do was look at her album.
So I scrolled back up and looked at her beautiful album of British Columbia over the weekend.
Here is my favourite photo:
It’s amazing how my fears can have me making ridiculous subconscious decisions. But I know where that instinct comes from. The same way that I fear that my creative source is finite, I also fear that the space for amazing creativity and the appreciation of that creativity is finite. Oh fear, you’re so paralyzing. This may have only been a Facebook experience, but it was a liberating one.
That’s it. I’ve entered my 35th year (that makes me 34).
And I need a change, I know it whenever I get this urge to chop my hair off (I’m not joking).
The good and bad news is that none of my problems are new. The things that are bothering me are issues I’ve been talking/writing/thinking about for years.
The advice from a rabbi in 2007
I’ve been going through some old diary entries. For the most part, they bore me. They are repetitive and a little whiny. (Thank God I didn’t publish that stuff!) But the good thing is that after all these years, I am now able to pinpoint (the?) two major issues in my life:
I’m scared of my life, the future and failure.
I’m almost never writing as much as I want to be.
One of these entries, in January 2007, wasn’t too boring because I wrote about the advice I got from a rabbi. This is approximately what he said:
Your bad feeling is self inflicted. You cut yourself no slack. You aren’t responsible for everything. Not everything in the world and not everything in yourself.
When you start being negative about yourself, say: “Sorry, I don’t have time for that right now. I’m busy.”
Contemplate things at the end of the day. Slowly, through giving yourself love, you will begin to really love yourself.
Most of what he said is true. I inflict pain on myself. I’m too hard on myself.
Besides reading old, embarrassing diary entries, I’ve also been doing embarrassing self-help research online about success, birthdays, why 30s are great, how to make a truckload of money from writing and how to totally change my mindset and become an entirely different person.
Well, I didn’t mean to research the last one. It just happened.
Here are some of the interesting things I found out:
My creative source is not finite! by The Oatmeal
As is often the case, The Oatmeal “verbalizes” what I’ve been thinking all along. And so now I know that I’m not the only one who is always convinced that the next piece I write will be the last because I will never have another idea again. The Oatmeal wrote:
Wait. So, it isn’t true? Well, who knows. Maybe I really won’t ever have another idea, but either way, I should push myself to put out that supposedly last piece.
Some motivational talks make me shrivel up inside. That doesn’t make me a bad person.
Often we think there is something wrong with us because of how we react to things when really it might just be faulty expectations about who we are.
I came across a post about the characteristics in highly successful people. It’s supposed to be motivational but it made me cringe. The writer lists all these traits that make an ordinary person extraordinary but the ideas are so lofty that it made me laugh just reading them. Like, that nervous kind of laugh.
The terms include:
Definite aim, vision and purpose (ugh, kill me now)
The amount I’d need to change in order to fit those descriptions, let alone the other 26 (!) mentioned in that piece is probably plain impossible. Maybe I could get a personality transplant but that’s probably expensive.
But I’m sick of believing that being an extroverted, go-getter, fast-working, multi-tasking, power house is the only way to succeed. I’ve been introduced to the book about introverts by Susan Cain which I’m itching to read and I’m going to work on seeing what environment I need in order to succeed. I being a slow, creative, thoughtful, detail-oriented person.
What Augustus did at the age of 34
Even though 34 is so young, we’re used to thinking that it’s already “older” and if it’s older, then maybe my chances of fulfilling my dreams have passed.
And so I looked up what others succeeded in doing in their 35th year. Here is one small success by Augustus:
After defeating Antony and Cleopatra’s forces in a naval battle, Augustus became the master of the Roman world.
Not quite as great as me but nobody’s perfect. I guess I could still try to do something with my life. :)
I’m not over the hill yet
And then I wondered what some really old people have succeeded in doing despite (or because of?) their serious advancement in years. This was with the purpose of inspiring me to go and do what I want.
And it all comes down to pushing! (Once you know what you want to be pushing yourself to do.)
Out of everything I’ve read or seen over the last few days, there was one piece that really stuck out for me more than the others. It truly inspired me.
Maneesh Sethi wrote so honestly about how he actually sometimes pays someone to sit next to him and slap him whenever he goes on Facebook. A professional slapper. Or he promises a friend lots of money if he doesn’t finish an article when he says he will.
What a breath of fresh air. I could have used either of those tactics the whole way through school. I often need a good slap to get myself going and focused (sorry motivational writer). I often know what I want to be working on but my unproductive inner voice makes me into a bum.
Sometimes you don’t have to psychoanalize that voice, sometimes you’ve just got to give it a good smack and do your work. Because doing your work in itself is what will help get some sense into your brain.
I love honesty and real-ness. Thank you, thank you Maneesh.
Just just just just just
Really none of this is a big deal. I just need to accept who I am and push myself to succeed in whatever I lay out for myself.
This is the song I “wrote” to express my exasperation at the way people always seem to use the word “just” for the hugest of tasks!
My one-week experiment
OK, easier said than done. But I really think that to a large extent, the heavy feeling in the mornings is due to the fact that I often have an idea of what I should be doing and my fears, etc., stop me.
My current theory is that if I push myself to do more of what I want to be doing, then that feeling will improve.
And so, in honour of my birthday and my life, I’m running an experiment.
For the next week I’d like to force myself to do stuff when I know what I want to be doing (which is often the case).
I know it’s possible it won’t make me feel better but at least I’m testing the theory. And if it does make a difference, amazing! And if it doesn’t, at least I’ve disproved that theory and can move on to the next.
Meanwhile, happy birthday to all. I hope that my new year is great for all of you, my dear readers. :)
I currently get around four pieces of friendly snail-mail a year (my birthday card from my ever-reliable aunt and a couple of invitations). That small amount leaves a heavy place in my heart.
It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even check my mailbox anymore because I feel no need to expend energy opening a box (so tiresome!) so that people can tell me how they want me to spend my money (aka junk mail and bills).
But ordering online makes it all better. After I’ve made an order, I have an incentive to open my mailbox. For example, today I ordered The Artist’s Way (finally!). It’s been, like five hours. Do you think it’s here yet??? One sec, let me go check.
And then, every time I get a note from the post office that a package has arrived, I get all giddy and I want to drop everything and go pick it up. I sort of pretend it’s a present and that I don’t know what it is. It’s a little sad to think I’m buying myself presents but it’s happy to be handed the package at the post office and then to open it when I get home. And… SURPRISE! See what thoughtful gift I just gave myself!
I’ll admit it. I even considered ordering the item gift wrapped one time. For myself. I haven’t stooped that low yet but who knows…
Maybe it’s sad that we’re sending ourselves presents but at least it will keep us opening our mailboxes, so that’s really great and responsible and so actually this post is really positive. No, really.
Today millions of people ran around very, very busy. They were at work early in the morning and then after a productive workday, they came home to their children and cooked and cleaned with barely a moment’s rest. Or they went out with friends or on dates.
Because they did stuff. Truly.
Me? I didn’t feel 100% and it was my day off and so I decided that I really don’t feel like doing anything. I knew it would be hard but I decided that once in a while it’s OK not to do anything.
In my doing nothing, here is what I did:
Cleaned the toilet
Read articles online
Read my book
Took a shower
Neatened up my apartment a little
Worked for one hour
Brainstormed for my writing (mind-maps, etc.)
Did some research for a friend
Wrote some emails
Did long distance bikur cholim
Talked on the phone
Once it wasn’t so hot out, I went out to the bench in front of my building with my mind-map notebook, a pen, my book and my cell phone and I sat there alternating between these items as I pleased, also taking many breaks to watch the people going by. A neighbour came over to talk to me and we ended up schmoozing for a while.
Needless to say, this was one of the loveliest days ever.
I know what you’re thinking (maybe). How is it that I did so much and yet I’m considering it a day when I did nothing? But as far as I was concerned, if nothing I did was on my “should” to-do list, it was as if I did nothing.
Throughout the day I actually kept wondering how I was getting away with such a lazy day.
The reason I have all that guilt is because I am living by a set of rules made up by who-knows-who. They are about being super-duper productive and super-duper busy. You have to feel like you don’t have time for the small things and you have to feel like time is zipping by – or else you’re a lazy bum.
But why do most of us subscribe to those rules without giving them a second thought? Just because someone in the western world has told us to try to get a million big and important things done every day, doesn’t mean they are right. What about all those people in the rest of the world who just hang out at home in the evenings? What about those people who don’t have an extremely ambitious to-do list?
It’s not that I believe we should waste our lives away. Our lives are precious. But the question is, what does it mean to do something? For example, I know that many people think that daydreaming is doing nothing. But if any of the things you do in your life necessitate brain work, daydreaming is probably an important part of your work. Sometimes you’ve just got to think. I know that with my work and my writing and also with personal things in my life, I just need to be given the head space to think. I often need to be alone for this and stare into space or do “lite” activities like reading or cooking and stop periodically to make notes regarding the issue at hand.
But I barely give myself the chance to just do whatever I want because I’m scared I can’t be trusted with that. It’s as if I believe that my true self is an irresponsible child and I need to be my own parent, since I, the child, can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself.
Why the fear? Especially considering the fact that I see that almost all of my lazy activities (for example thinking, reading, cooking) lead to productive activities (for example a blog post).
And that is actually what happened today. Among other things, because I let myself just do whatever I felt like doing, I ended up brainstorming on this idea of “doing nothing” and ended up with this blog post as a result.