On Speed

Time has been flying by for me with the new job. I’m constantly busy. To the point of not having time for even really checking my email during the day. Now I’m glad for the manic training that doing grad school as well as doing a full time job simultaneously had taught me.

It’s kind of a sick fascination for me, because at every job and every pace of my life I’ve thought… “This has got to be the limit of my attention span. I can go no farther. There is no way I can juggle any more details for anyone. I can’t keep up this mental pace.”

And then the next job brings me even farther along. The modern office demands that we learn quickly how to utilize media around us in order to extend our capacity for getting the job done. Stopping to pause now and then I look at my job and realize that the only way… the ONLY way… that I can work so fast is because of computers. If a few interface adjustments were made to better serve a workflow that worked for me instead of against me, I would be able to work even more efficiently, and thus handle more at once.

I’m not sure I want those efficiency improvements to be made. It’s kind of telling, though, that in order to maintain this level of speed I require notebooks. Not the electronic kind, the spiral bound kind. One notebook for each client. And one for my desk’s phone and conversation log. Oh yes. If I speak with you about something important as soon as you leave I document that I had the conversation with you, the time, and what it was about. If there are things you promised to do for me in that conversation, I’m just as likely to send an email recapping things to you instead, but one way or another those conversations get logged. And if it’s about a client, that’s part of what adds in to whether or not I decide that the time was justifiably billable or not.

And that’s just for an interruption. I could just play it fast and free and trust my memory, and honestly for some things depending on lack of urgency I will, but there are only so many things I can keep in mind at once.

Now, I use the computer to keep them in mind for me. I write it down. I send emails when I need there to be records of the conversations. I call when I need for there not to be records of the conversation, or when the call is about a single detail. Or if a call has been requested, but that tends to get logged because… it’s billable work. And it establishes a paper trail.

My whole point of existence is to simultaneously do the work and document the process of how the work got done. And that’s every moment, of every day. For many, many clients with simultaneous projects at varying stages. On top of managing the daily tactical relationships with clients.

It’s insane. It’s madness, the sheer amount of information that I have to process and retain on a given day. It’s a very “Devil Wears Prada” feeling when you get to that pacing level, but at the same time you really do pay a price in your life outside.

My nights consist of a commute home and sitting down in front of the TV and having my mind shut off. Not just go into low idling mode, just shut off.

It’s not breakneck all the time. But if you’re not processing something then you’re documenting something you put off but really should get done before you forget. Such a slave to the information that you forget you’re actually accomplishing things as you go. The closure points feel few and far between because of all the minutiae, but if you keep up with the minutiae then you will avoid as many problems as possible. You really, truly will. The devil’s in the details, all right.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again… I think I’ve hit my personal limit on the pace of information, though. I’m seeing diminishing returns consistently the more work I’m handed.

But hey, I’m employed. This isn’t a complaint, more just an assessment of my own performance. And an attempt to document the strange new career I’m in.

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