Sunday, December 11, 2005

How to get 60 hours out of your 40 hour work week

Blogging at 10,000 feet, Continued. How to get 60 hours out of your 40 hour work week.

I have long been an avid user of background media. My television is almost always on, NPR plays on the radio while I drive. But I never actually just watch TV, or just listen to the radio. These are things that I do while I do other things. Wireless Internet has now allowed my to write a proposal for work AND watch the latest episode of LOST, maybe even simultaneously talk to my business partner on IM about marketing ideas and watch my son play with his new train. Better yet, my DVR will let me record that same episode of LOST and play it back, skipping through the commercials, faster, and at my leisure, buying me back the time lost by those commercials. It is a beautiful thing.

But I am in the message business. I need my messages to come across to the consumer and yet I am that person deleting my spam email while listening to a podcast, and fast-forwarding through the commercials. Product placement in TV or movies is a fine way to combat this, and yet, I have become so adept at accepting that I don’t catch every detail of a TV show, and filling in the gaps in my head, I am likely to miss product placement. I do the same thing when going to a website with banner ads. I filter. Filtering is what keeps my head from exploding.

People say that I am so busy – but really I am just trying to reach a level of efficiency, while not over-taxing my internal resources, which would in-turn render my activity unproductive. Balance is the ultimate goal. I really can bake cookies while writing a book. Because, after all, what else am I going to do… watch the cookies in the oven? No of course not, no body would expect me to. But the key is to not try to write, and iron and bake, and talk on the phone, and IM. You have to pick the activities that use the different parts of your brain, and let them work together, (you wouldn’t want to IM your boss what you just told your best friend about him, and it can happen—trust me).

As a person who works with hourly employees, logging time for customers is getting more difficult. Our employees can effectively multi-task several projects simultaneously, turning an 8 hour day into a day with 10 billable hours. Should I as an employer pay for someone who sat at their desk for 8 hours pay for those ten logged hours? Should the customer pay if the employee was also running reports for another client while coding their website? How do you figure this out? Can primary and secondary activities be graded as to assign the right amount of billable time to them? This brings up some important questions for me as a business owner, but as a business owner aren’t I doing the same thing? I will often delete old or spam emails while chatting on the phone, or broker deals while transporting my little one to day-care. Or load new software or test a site while printing out invoices. Can I log this time? Of course—why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t my employees?

Where this gets really tricky is that you can’t naturally expect that everyone can conduct their lives so efficiently. Multi-taking can be a bad-word. Too many people multi-task so much that they just don’t get anything accomplished—or well. Can you ask a potential employee how they can create time out of none? Focus, after all can be good.

And that goes back to my original statement about background media. How much do I lose by blogging and watching The Polar Express while traveling on a plane from California to Atlanta? I certainly couldn’t repeat the movie’s story-line in detail. Then again, maybe I am not missing much there. Maybe I am enhancing my blogging experience by throwing in some light entertainment.

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