Efficiency versus Minimalism

There are two separate trains of thought going around these days that in many ways support each other, but at other time I just can’t seem to balance. The move towards efficiency says that we should make the most of our time, that no moment should wasted, and that we need to do multiple tasks as much as possible. David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, or GTD, is a driving force behind this. On the other hand, the move to minimalism calls us to simplify, to slow down, to do one thing and do it well.

Now much of the time those two philosophies go together quite well. But every so often, like while I was nuking a frozen pizza for lunch, I feel they are at odds. And no, this has nothing to do with my poor dietary habits.

While the pizza was being radiated for four minutes, I wonder what I should be doing. Should I find some other task in the kitchen to fill those 240 seconds? Maybe wipe down a counter or rearrange the spices? This would be a fine example of GTD. Or should I be minimalistic and merely enjoy the short break from working and thinking. I could watch the pizza go around or sit and tickle the cat. That would be simplifying and slowing down.

What was the result? I stressed over which alternative would in the end lead to less stress! There are times when this whole self-improvement thing makes me need a therapist.

The Walls Are Transparent

You have one life. Whether you believe in rebirth, reincarnation, or just darkness after death, you still have just one life to lead. You do not get a life for work, a life for family, and a separate one for everything else. This has always been true, but increasingly it is becoming more evident, and people are starting to wake up to the fact that it is this oneness that can help bring happiness or despair.

There is a saying that you can only be content when what you say, what you do, and what you believe are all the same. Mind, body, and spirit in agreement. When you try to say one thing but do another, you introduce stress and discontentment into your life. For proof, just look at Elliot Spitzer, Ted Haggard or John Edwards. Not only did these men all have great public trials to face when the news of their actions came out, even greater was the inner turmoil they faced.

Other examples can be seen in companies that talk about fiscal responsibility but still cling to wasteful ways of private jets and corporate perks. Or groups that preach green behavior but still waste paper, food, or gasoline. Or the individual who goes to church and prays for the poor on Sunday and then walks silently past the Salvation Army bucket on Monday. And how many people are there who say we should help the immigrants but still won’t hire them or who recoil from them in social situations.

All of these actions create turmoil within us and cause us to be less than content. And in no greater place is this evident than the Internet. As social media becomes more and more pervasive, our different roles in life become increasingly visible without borders. When I go to hire a new employee and Google her name, I do not separate that this Facebook profile is personal while this LinkedIn profile is professional. Which one should I use to evaluate this future employee? I am going to use both. And when I look up a new acquaintance on MySpace and see what he is talking about there and then follow him on Twitter and see what he is saying or doing, I do not separate these things into different areas of my mind. No, it all goes in there together.

I find it interesting that some prospective employees still find it hard to believe I would use Google or other methods to look them up on the web before doing an interview. Wouldn’t you investigate a prospective employer before going to an interview? If no, you should. Shouldn’t you know if the company you are looking at has any good or bad press? What about civic awards or criminal prosecutions? Or maybe since those things happened in a different area of the company then they don’t apply to you. Nope, didn’t think so.

See what I am saying? The Internet makes what few walls there are between parts of are lives increasingly transparent. I have always prided myself, for better or worse, on being one person. The Michael you see at works is the same one you will see at the soccer games and the same one you will see at home or church. There is nothing on my work related sites that my friends shouldn’t see and nothing on my personal sites that I wouldn’t want an employer or colleague to know. And I will tell you what, living that way makes life a lot less stressful.

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Off To See The Doctor

Guess they don’t like it when your blood pressure shoots up, your face turns red, you get dizzy, and your heart races and thumps. So I am off to be examined this afternoon. I am sure it is a combination of stress, eating habits, stress, lack of exercise, and stress. We will just have to see what they do to me. Probably more medication. Too bad they won’t prescribe a few weeks on a deserted island somewhere.

Worse than medication I am sure the doctor is going to tell me to get back to exercising. Hey, I have a membership to the gym and carry around the card. Isn’t that exercise enough? I figured that by carrying the card in my pocket I would get healthy by osmosis. No?

And what are you telling me, that I need to stop eating Tornadoes (those little rolled up taco things) for lunch from the gas station? But I love gas station food. Anything that has a shelf life longer than the average expected life expectancy of the US population has to be good for you, doesn’t it? If those preservatives keep the food from going bad, should they preserve me too?

Ah well, I am sure the doctor will differ in her opinion. So I will go and be poked, prodded, pee in a cup, and maybe have leaches attached. Sounds like a great way to spend the afternoon. See, told you I was dizzy.

Blood Pressure Rising

I have been trying meditation, and tea, and walks, and about everything else I can think of. But do you want to know the truth? Well the truth is that I just really want to kill someone! There, I said it. Maybe that will make me feel better!

Stress ReliefThe problem is, and I am sure that a lot of you have the same problem, that there are lots of a-holes at work. Yup, amazing isn’t it. There are people at the office who just try to pass on blame, avoid responsibility, and simply seemed determined to screw other people up. Case in point – why would you wait until people involved on a project are out of town before you raise an issue. Oh, they aren’t responding while on vacation? Then immediately escalate, without letting them know, to the boss. The issue existed before anyone left, and people would be back the next day. This “escalator” chose that particular day to announce and push the problem specifically because there was no one there to offer a defense. It was a calculated action to get people into trouble. Really fosters a great team relationship doesn’t it?

Now here is the hard part. I am a firm believer in the fact that we are all dealt adversities in our life. What separates us and shows who we are is how we deal with those hardships. Yes, we all face jerks at work. What happens next is up to you and me. Do we turn into jerks in return? Or do we maintain our cool. So far I have been able to maintain my calm and not go back at this person. But when does that become just laying down and become a doormat? Since this person is a superior, there is only so much I can do without seeming out of line.

But like I said, I am going to burst soon. My blood pressure is up. My head hurts. And my face feels hot. And no, it isn’t just an isolated occurrence, and yes I am already on blood pressure medication. So other than killing someone, got any ideas? (And no, I am not seriously going to kill anyone.)