Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Be bored; it's good for you

I’ve been pleasantly-but-barely busy at work the past few days. Prudence needed some help with a couple of projects she had going on, one of which is just a small doctor’s office project and the other being a minor remodel. Well, it’s a minor remodel that also involves replacing the RTU on a small office building. An RTU is what we call a roof top unit, or a mechanical unit that goes on the roof of a building and provides heated air and air conditioning for a building. Instead of putting it on the ground like your standard Trane or Lennox air conditioner or heat pump (where we’d call it an AHU, or air handling unit), we put it on the roof, which allows the ground to be used for parking, sidewalks, landscaping, or whatever. An RTU also allows the ductwork to be more efficient.

Anyway, Prudence needed some help from an architect on the project because the included problems of dealing with a new mechanical unit on a building and having to possibly refit or cut new openings in the roof of the building for the new RTU were out of her league as an interior designer. Added to all this is that the workload for our interiors group has them moving at a frenetic pace, so none of Prudence’s usual suspects is available to help her even with the little doctor’s office project. However, Shorty is quite available and willing to help.

Now that I have work to do, a new problem arises. I can do the assigned work faster than the time given. For example, Prudence gave me some plans and sheets to set up for a set on this RTU/renovation project, and she gave me about 12 hours to do it. If I had something else to do after it, I would have been done in 9-10 hours. Without an urgent or at least time-sensitive deadline, I had to stretch it out.

This sort of thing weighs on me, and it bother Guy a little too when he has to do it, but he accepts it as just what you have to do sometimes when there’s not enough going on. As a task-oriented person who craves efficiency, having to stretch work to fill the time allotted bugs me such that I have a hard time getting over it. I feel like I’m not being productive and like I’m cheating my company.

I saw Liz in the ladies’ room this afternoon a little before 5. As our eyes met at the sinks, we both sighed, then had to laugh at our mutual heavy sighification.“I’m just kinda bored right now, Liz,” I said a little sheepishly. “I have about six hours’ worth of stuff to do and eight hours to do it, and—“
“—you feel like you’re not being productive or efficient,” she replied. “Gawd, I completely know how you feel. Since Pomme de Terre went on hold, things have been okay, but lately I’m barely at 40 hours.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “If I don’t have a To Do list longer than my day, I can’t get a damn thing done, or at least done well, and I feel like I have Shiny Object Syndrome.”
“Completely,” Liz sympathized. “I do my best work—I’m at my most efficient when there’s just a little bit of pressure on me. And Shiny Object Syndrome is a great way to describe how I’ve been feeling lately.”

We left the ladies room and headed back to our desks. “But you know,” Liz continued, “it occurs to me that most of last year, I was doing 55-60 hours a week, I just had so much going on. And in all the years I’ve been doing this for a living, these kinds of calm moments are pretty rare. So, y’know…I’m just…enjoying it. I actually have time to read the article about punchlists that Sutherland sends out. I actually have time to read the AIA bulletin or newsletter that I get emailed once a week.”

Being comfortable with the present when the present is uncomfortable is not my strong suit. Somehow, though, Liz put it in perspective for me. I guess I needed to hear it from someone that I respect as much as Liz. It’s not that I don’t respect Guy, but he does have an ulterior motive for calming me down with some wise words—he wants peace. Liz was somehow able to articulate the temporary nature of this slowdown in such a way that it seemed almost tolerable.

My mom used to tell us when we said we were bored, “Be bored; it’s good for you.” Perhaps it is.


ms. kitty said...

My mom used to say essentially the same thing, Pixie. And I said it to my son, who is probably saying it to his kids.

Wilderness Gina said...

You want I should send you a tangle of string? That's always good for boredom. Remember, No cutting of strings. Unravel only. Good luck.