Sunday, January 25, 2009

An extra four hours

Kellye recently asked me (well, sorta recently, the first week of January) about how the new 36-hour workweek was going for us at DA.  The short answer is that it's okay so far.  I don't know if people are accomplishing in 36 hours what they used to in 40, but what I've observed so far is that if anyone has any work at all to do, they're getting it done in the time allotted.  I know Derek is doing what he has to do on his project in the 36 hours or less, but his project is also only a couple of months away from wrapping up construction.  Most of us--Liz, Elliot, Jacqueline, Intern Timmy, and me--are doing non-billable stuff most of the time, so of course we can fit whatever few billable thigns we get to do in the 36 hours allotted.  And everyone seems to be doing the 36 hours differently. Sven's team, for the most part, are just taking every other Friday off, Alex (my big boss) suggested that everyone work four 9-hour days and take all of Friday, but most of the people around me are doing what I'm doing and taking Friday afternoons.

Well, it's what I'm trying to do, anyway.  What I'm finding interesting is how my so-called extra four hours keep getting eaten.  For the first two weeks of the 36-hour week, Sven has managed to book meetings regarding the project I'm working on with him on Friday afternoons, which shoots my oh-yay-I-get-Fridays-off plan.  Also, I find that I'm using some of those four to take the place of what used to be billed as sick time to go to doctor and vet appointments.  Which doesn't seem right to me, but for some reason that's how I'm using some of the time.  Even worse, I'm finding that the rest of my four hours that doesn't get eaten up by ill-planned meetings is getting absorbed by chores.  Well, I had a meeting here, so I only got two hours on Friday, I think, so I'll use the other two hours over here to do some housecleaning and to pick up the groceries.  

Recall that I was hoping to use this four hours to do some writing: when one writes--really writes--one needs some time to get into it, then some time to write In The Zone, and then to wrap up the writing or realize that one is spent and done with writing for now, or whatever.  The writing process is not like the housecleaning process or the grocery -shopping process.   You don't have to kinda-Swiff a room in order to get into the mode of Swiffing.  You don't have to sorta-shop at a store next door before you go into the grocery store and really buy your groceries.  But with writing, or at least when I write, I find that I need a goodly chunk of time to write, really write, think and write, get up and pace and sit down and write some more, shift in my seat two or three times and write some more, pick a new album or playlist to listen to on my iPod and write some more, and then realize I've said all I can say for now and put everything down.  So, I really need my four hours in a block to write.

Or do I?

Perhaps I just need to defend the time more fiercely.  Vinnie suggested that I take off Wednesdays instead of Fridays, but y'all, it is so dead in my office on Fridays in general right now that by 10am I realize I've run out of give-a-damn, so if I look unproductive on a Tuesday, I really will be worthless on Friday.  And if I decide well, I didn't write this week, and it's Sunday, so Shorty better get her write on, it's an uncomfortable feeling and I end up resentful of the writing projects on which I'm working, and the work just isn't as good.  I need the writing time without Guy in the house, with the cats curled up on the chaise in little knots like furry bookends being semi-quiet, the iPod plugged into speakers cranking Duffy or Amy Winehouse or Enya or Pat Metheny or Does It Offend You, Yeah? or whatever lame-ass music I want to hear cranking, and me thinking alone and writing alone.

So, perhaps the problem is not just about what other people are doing to my four hours, but also what I'm doing to my four hours and what I'm letting other people do to my four hours.  That being said, I actually got my four hours this past Friday, and it was delightful.  First, I left work about 12:20 and went to a gas station to fill up the car (it was on fumes--had to be done).  Then I came home and had some tomato soup and a grilled cheez sammitch for lunch, then I turned on the computer and got about two hour's worth of writing done.  Some writing of new stuff, some editing of old stuff I'd forgotten existed, but it was good stuff.  I made a couple of phone calls (one of which was to the vet about when to pick up Hazel from getting her teeth cleaned), and then got a call from Guy to come pick him up from work. It was 4:15 by the time I dropped Guy off at home and headed on to the vet's to get Hazel.  So, while I did get a few errands done, I also got in some quality writing time.  Perhaps, perhaps  I can get errands and writing done if I schedule it right.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  Well, this is only Week 3 of Operation Do Some Writing.  We'll see.

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