Forget A To-Do List, Just Get Something Done

Posted by amy.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

It’s a trap. The trap is a false sense of activity. You think you’re busy, and, in fact, you may be really busy, but is anything that matters really getting done? Are you advancing the cause or just filling up the calendar? Take a look at the calendar — how much of the activity really matters?

There are clear symptoms if you suffer from the “false sense of activity” syndrome. Symptom one is feeling like you are in too many meetings. By definition, too many meetings mean you are busy but getting nothing done. Symptom one leads to symptom two, which is that you are always late. Another killer symptom is reviewing your to‑do list and finding that the only things that ever come off are the easy things.

The big, tough things to do are always left for another day. When you leave the workplace at the end of the day, if you ever ask yourself, “What did I really do today?” you are suffering from a false sense of activity. It can become a nasty habit and your colleagues believe you are busy but you really are not.

Some big things can move a mile a year. Some things only move an inch a year. Just move something.

Thanks For Sharing Your Leftovers

Posted by amy.

The advent of microwaves ovens created a brave new world at work. The office no longer needed to reek of printer toner and whiteboard markers alone. The office could now smell of microwave popcorn!

Ah, but it didn’t stop there. We can pop something out of the freezer (with the notes on it about cleaning up after yourself) and cook a lasagna or chicken potpie. Going even further, the microwave is now the new home for cooking leftovers. How many of us have been distracted by what we know is a reheated bean burrito or beef chow mein that was nuked just a little too long? The smell of reheated burritos can be as distracting as the guy in the cubicle next door who talks to his mother all day.

I dare you to hold a serious meeting when the smell of the garlic in the clam linguini works its way through the halls. The mind wanders in the hope that we don’t sit next to that person in the next meeting. What was not eaten at the restaurant last night does not go home, it ends up in the office microwave. The odors are shared by all.

Some say that leftovers in the office create community when everyone goes out into the hall and asks, what is that smell? Who is cooking that? Left-overs allow colleagues to share their restaurant experiences, and leftovers are the inspiration for the ironclad rule about implementation: whatever is left in the refrigerator on Friday will be thrown away.

It is always good to know that inspiration about execution can come from new sources, like leftovers. And sometimes they are best left at home.

It’s More Than Just Coffee

Posted by amy.

Photo by on Unsplash

Lunch is dead. It takes too long, it’s too crowded, and it’s a hassle. Besides, it is often offered for free or at a big discount if you stay in the company cafeteria. So instead of lunch out at the local restaurant where one can network and maybe even interview for new jobs, we are stuck with our colleagues, who complain about the boss. The solution is coffee, whether you drink it or not.

Coffee is no longer an innocent drink to have with the morning dough-nut in private. Coffee isn’t even a drink. Coffee may not even involve coffee. When someone asks you out for a coffee, it means a short meeting outside of the office. It could be purely social (even a date), it could be all about business, it could be just good networking, or, most likely, it could be an interview. Most importantly, “coffee” means not too long.

There are many benefits to “coffee,” including:

  • It’s possible to have five coffees or more in a day. You can only have one lunch.
  • Lunch can be lots of calories. Coffee is nonfattening unless you order a huge Mocha Frappuccino with extra caramel.
  • Coffee frees up lunch to get real work done. You can still have that turkey sandwich at your desk at lunch, knowing that you already had five coffees.

In our drive for efficiency and productivity, lunch is being replaced with coffee. Lunch is now reserved for true friends and making deals. It is a special event.

The place for the two activities is reversed. Lunch is probably now in the office and coffee is outside of the office. A typical coffee shop is more like a career fair, with interviews taking place at every ­non-private little table. I see people discussing their strengths and weaknesses everywhere while their coffee gets cold. So I tried conducting an interview in the local beanery, thinking that it would put the candidate more at ease. The alternative was a stark conference room, which does not lend itself to participants feeling at ease. In the coffee shop, as always, there was a line while the barista did her thing, so we broke the ice over small talk. When it came our time to order, my candidate ordered a Mocha Coconut Frappuccino, blended, with foam on the side. Extra hot.

“Is this a person who is going to be high maintenance?” I wondered. If ordering a coffee is this complicated, how will this person do when it comes to putting a plan together? Is it right to judge people by the coffee they order? Right or wrong, when looking for a job, we are all judged by every small movement. Could be our clothes or hairstyle or where we went to ­school — or our coffee order.

When I entertained yet another candidate for a job, I learned about coffee names by chance. My candidate, who was named Joaquim, was asked his name. He replied, “Joe.” It turns out, about half of us have coffee names, and that’s a good thing. Coffee names are all about clarity and ease of completion. No need to spell Ann, Joe, or Scott. Coffee names are all about efficiency, and short names make the line go faster. Coffee names are all about creativity too. What name can we dream up that captures our essence without having to spell it every time? Coffee names can create an alter ego too. If we can change our name at the coffee corner, the superhero in the office can’t be far behind.

Coffee is an important part of the workplace that can make or break a career all at once. Coffee is more than a caffeine buzz; it is a parallel universe to the office. Remember what can happen over coffee and save the mocha frappes for when you get a job.