Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When karma runs over dogma

I had possibly the least-productive day at work in my entire life to date yesterday. We’re not talking about one of those days where you flit ineffectually from one thing to another, dabbling your little pollinators into various stems without picking up a whole lot of useful things to bring back to the hive.

We’re talking about the kind of day where you literally keep catching yourself…basically sleeping at your desk.

With your eyes open.

Or mostly open, anyway.

The kind of day where you just sort of become aware that you have been sitting there, as if in a trance, staring bug-eyed at the same…wait, what IS this even?!…for the last…uh…undetermined amount of time…and you can’t even remember why you had this document open in the first place.

I did a bunch of the things I normally do to perk myself up when Such Times are upon me.

  • standing up and working for a while
  • walking around the room while on meetings
    • Fiddling with things
    • because, have you MET me?
      • which I’m sure is not annoying or distracting for other people on the call
        • …oh hai, yes, that was me NOT being on mute whilst I dusted mine shutters during thy speech, kind sir…
        • …aaaaaaaaand, NOW that was me not coming OFF mute before launching into mine own speech, ha ha ha…ahem…so, to recap the conversation I just had with MYSELF apparently…
  • brisk walk around the garden
    • without a jacket
    • at 6:45 a.m.
    • it was a tad chilly-ish
      • and still I could not call myself ‘awake’
  • drank as much water as I could force down
    • the first thing I always think when I’m tired is, “Am I dehydrated?”
      • correction: the first rational thing I think
      • because there are typically a few irrational things I tend to think first
      • ermahgahd, maybe it’s CANCER! or…that THING, you know, that WEIRD thing? the one that person had in that show that one time?
        • …you mean the swamp-fever thing that you could only catch by being directly bitten by a mosquito who had dined within the last three hours on the ultra-rare, only-five-left-on-the-planet booah-booah bird, which is only found in a 0.25 acre range in deepest, darkest Africa? That thing?
        • …um…yes…?
        • …oooooookay, alternatively, perhaps you are merely dehydrated? shall we try a nice big bottle of water before we order in an EMT with a side helping of insanely rare serum?
        • …yes, please…
  • ate a banana
    • my go-to cure for just about everything, such as:
      • “I think my blood sugar might be a smidge low”
      • “I am hungry but I do not have time/inclination to eat a meal right now”
      • “I am not hungry but believe that I should be”
      • “I so totally want to eat my own body weight in sugar right now, omg, the craving, it is overwhelming, I can’t TAKE it, I MUST EAT ALL THE CANDY, ALL OF IT I SAY, MWAAHAHAHAHA!” 
  • ignored my ‘official’ task list in favor of ‘interesting stuff’
    • sadly, this can work wonders for my energy level
    • “Create a .bat file for an AutoSys job to execute? zzzzzzzzzzz…”
    • Figure out some way to automatically handle archiving and record retention management using just meta-data containers and a batch_id column which may or may not have a direct 1:1 relationship with date-of-load information? …you have my undivided and suddenly wide-awake attention…

None of this worked.

Like, at all.

Even while I was being physically active, I was still just dragging. I’m pretty sure I could have crawled into bed and actually gone back to sleep.

Even with Captain Adventure exploding into the room about every fifteen seconds because did I mention he’s on spring break? and that Grandma brought him an Easter basket? and that he was an ANIMAL during the Easter egg hunt and appears to have cornered the market on candy-bearing plastic eggs?!

Sometimes, I’m sorely tempted to just dump all his candy onto his bed and say, “Go ahead. Eat all of it.” Just to get it over with, you know? Eat it all, get horribly sick, not have the “every few minutes, I suddenly remember that I have chocolate I could be eating MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!” thing.

But I digress.

It didn’t take long for me to start feeling guiltily aware that I was very much NOT pulling my weight right then. And that this was probably not going to change: It was just one of those days, when some combination of Things was coming together in a perfect storm of I should probably all kidding aside just go back to bed right now.

And I thought to myself, You know…you should totally just send out one of those “I’m not feeling too well, I’m going to call it and take the rest of the day off” emails, and log the rest of the day as PTO.

Because to me, this would be the honorable thing to do: I am providing exactly zero value to my employer, I am apparently completely incapable of shaking this whatever-it-is off right now, and therefore my presence is at best a waste of resources, and at worst could actually set our projects back if I were to do something really stupid while in the throes of this General Malaise™.

And then I thought, …oh…wait…ugh, no, I really CAN’T, it’s the day after a holiday…

This is one of those Policy things: While it is not exactly “forbidden” to call in sick the day before or after a holiday (whether an ‘official’ corporate day off or merely one of those ‘“everybody” is doing something for it’ ones), it is…discouraged.

And if you do it x-many times (I have no idea how many, I’m not really in the category of person who needs to know or keep count of Such Things; thanks to our robust work from home policy and ability, I probably only have 2-3 days a year where I even consider using a sick day – it has to be pretty bad before you can’t prop yourself upright and work from home, you know?), it becomes something you will be scolded about, OFFICIALLY.

So much of my career was spent as an hourly employee – and a fairly pricey one at that – that to me, it doesn’t matter whether it is Tuesday, Christmas Day or Doomsday: If I’m not pulling my weight because I’m sick, extremely ‘off’ or whatever, I need to not be billing the client for that time.

I need to leave, and save whatever budget they have for when I am on my game.

It is a matter of both ethics, and long-term returns. If you’re working on a project and they keep going, “But what are we spending this money on? Because we keep signing checks without seeing a whole lot of finished stuff…”, you get a certain reputation, you know? Whereas being able to finishing things up on time and within budget gets you a different reputation.

As tempting as it may be to ‘front-load’ your hours when you’re working on an hourly basis, I’ve found it paid me better over the long term to make sure my clients were always getting the benefit of my best heavy lifting, you know?

So it felt really, really weird to be saying to myself, “Well, yes, I am completely useless today. Buuuuuuuut, I really shouldn’t call it a sick day and keep my inability to tie my own shoes on my own time, so instead I’ll just sit here faithfully moving my mouse around and failing to actually accomplish anything. Because that’s the right thing to do right now.”

Weird, and unpleasant.

I wonder how much of that is just old habit dying hard for me, and how much would still be true for me even if instead of pretty much going straight into that hourly-based-and-therefore-extremely-focused-on-productivity-per-hour-purchased consulting all those years ago, I had trudged into Corporate America, and been in this same ‘I get paid the same no matter how well or poorly I do my job’ sort of position.

I think it’s just me, because…well…this too is my life. Everything I do. The fun stuff, the work stuff, the stuff I really wish I didn’t have to do, the have-to and want-to, the easy and the hard, the pleasant and the unpleasant.

It’s all…me. Who and what I am. So I don’t want to go about things all half-arsed just because I deem them “not as important” or “boring” or “not what I want to be doing right now.”

So what if it isn’t the part where I get to drink champagne out of a dress shoe? (aside: ew, no, I’ll take a glass thank-you-all-the-same…the desire to slam down a drinky-poo or two now with extra foot-sweat really has not seized me yet.)

It’s still going into my little ‘What I Did With This Life’ book, you know? So I want to do my best, and get to the end of the day looking at my score and at least saying, “Good effort.”

Not all swings are going to knock the ball out of the park; not all pieces are going to be masterpieces; not every day is going to be super-crazy productive. But I don’t like a day that makes me feel ashamed of my lack of effort, or that ends with me not even able to say, “Hey, you did your best, you tried.”

It makes me feel more like a loser than even my worst belly-flops and brilliant-idea-that-wasn’t-so-brilliant-actually.

But, I will have to accept at least a certain number of ‘working through the meh’ when it comes to Mondays, Fridays, and days-before-or-after-holidays.

’Cause HR (bless their hearts) would rather I sit there and be a stump than use up 8 hours of my ‘float’ time to do it on my own time on those days.