Tag Archives: efficiency

Treading water

I am way, way behind.

I have papers to grade.  I have stats homework that I’m beginning to realize I don’t even know how to do.  I have 77 emails in my inbox, even though I usually try to enforce a limit of 20.  No need to even mention my thesis.

I am exceptionally skilled in the art of biting off more than I can chew.  Two advanced statistics courses in the same semester that I’m supposed to be writing my thesis?  Both using different stats programs that I’ve never used before?  And one of them requires calculus, which I’ve never taken?  No problem.  Labor-intensive coding of over 10,000 webpages?  Sure – in fact, let me learn how to program so that it can go more smoothly.

Ugh.  This is not the contemplative life I anticipated.  I realize I’m exceptionally inept at taking on the right number of obligations, but I don’t think I’m alone.  Individuals and organizations do the same thing.  I think there are a few underlying causes:

1.  We’re really bad at predicting how long tasks will take. All but the most routinized chores are fraught with unexpected delays.

Why I Suck: I can barely get my morning routine right.

Why We Suckhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man_Month

2.  When we have some free time, it’s all too tempting to fill it – leaving us no room for overflow later.

Why I Suck: I was having a great semester.  Then I sat in on a stats class to take notes for a friend, and fell madly in love with the subject matter (okay, okay, and the instructor).  I had plenty of free time back then.  Now?  Well, I’m posting at 7am – and I didn’t just get into the office, y’all.

Why We Suck:  Financial markets define efficiency for Americans in 2008, and they do it on a quarterly basis.  If your workers are only busting their asses 95% of the time, you need to find more for them to do.  There’s not really any room in the ledgers for using that extra slack time to communicate with each other, tweak their workspace, or (God forbid) just recuperate a bit.

Why We Might Start to Suck A Little Less: 3M and Google have recognized the importance of letting their employees have some time to do work that is of actual interest to them.  If those two giants of innovation can get away with it, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.  Then again, maybe they can only get away with it because they already are so successful.

3.  We’re really just plain awful at statistical theory.

That one’s all me, folks.


Filed under work