Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#63 Work All Day, Play All Night

Does all work and no play make Jenni a dull girl? That's what I set out to discover today.

Work is, of course, a necessity for life. I need to pay the bills. I need to make enough money to buy food and pay rent. And hopefully go out with my friends every now and then. Work can also be incredibly tedious. My work involves sitting in front of a computer and reading various documents all day; usually interesting documents and I love my job, but I also have gotten in the habit of taking a lot of breaks throughout the day.

There are a fair number of articles* about how humans need to take breaks at work for our physical and mental well being. These articles claim we are not meant to spend all of our work time working. We will actually function better if we take a few breaks throughout the day. But, I wanted to challenge myself, and I also feel that my many short breaks during the work day have become too many.

Granted, I fit every description I found of a good employee*: I get all of my work done, on time and sometimes early, I take on new projects without complaint, I am positive and cheerful throughout the workday and I often ask my co-workers if they need any help. But there are many days when, even though I've gotten all my work done, I don't feel like I've been particularly productive. Probably because I know exactly how much time I spent on the internet or tasks unrelated to work. The speed at which I am able to complete my work, due to the fact that I'm a speed reader and type 102 wpm, convinced me that although I am a good employee, I am not living up to my full potential.

I thought back to when I worked as a server in a restaurant or as a sales associate in a store. I never took breaks. How can you when there are customers constantly coming in? I would just haul ass through my entire shift, and I was on my feet for those jobs! They were much more demanding than sitting in front of the computer, reading and writing reports.

What if I actually worked all day at the speed that I normally do, without the many breaks that I take during the day? What if I concentrated all the awesome powers of my fingers into churning out letters and forms instead of comments on Facebook? Could I suddenly find myself at the head of the company within 3 years?

Today I attempted to spend an entire day hard at work with no internet surfing, no breaks to check my Facebook or Gmail, no conversations with co-workers that are un-related to work, no Goodreads, no online shopping, no primping trips to the bathroom, no text messaging and no handling of personal matters (making doctor's appointments, balancing my checkbook, etc.).

I started my day at 8:30am.

9:00 am - My poor butt cheeks started feeling a little squished and I began wondering if gravity is eventually going to pull all my fat cells down into my butt, which will expand to the sides, flattened by the seat, until I have a wide, flat back load. And then I realized that I was sitting there daydreaming about the shape of my butt instead of focusing on my work.

9:15 am - By this time I was actively resisting the temptation to attempt this experiment another day and just check my gmail.

9:30 am - I got a second wind and started feeling happily productive about the amount of completed work on the side of my desk.

10:00 am - Productivity is overrated. I longed to do anything but work. To check my email. To check my facebook. To have a conversation with somebody. Anybody. I started looking up hopefully everytime someone walked past my desk.

10:15 am - I caught myself day dreaming again. This time about what fictional characters from favorite books I might name my future progeny.

10:45 am - Whoo-hoo, I get to use the copier!!! I spent my time in front of the machine doing running stretches. Thankfully no one saw me, because I'm sure I looked hilarious, but it felt great.  I returned to my desk feeling much better, especially since it didn't really count as a break since I had been copying documents.

11:30 am - Seriously tempted to start banging my head on my desk. Just to be doing something different.

11:35 am - I promised myself that if I could just get through till noon I could stop this stupid task, write in my blog about failure and choose a new #63.

11:40 am - Apparently my brain can't even conjure up day dreams anymore. This time I was just staring at a nonexistant point to the left of my computer with my head completely blank.

11:50 am - I put a post-it over the clock on my computer so that I can't avoid work by watching the minutes tick by.

12 pm -

Sure, that stack underneath me is completed work... but I felt incredibly crabby and just as tired as if I'd worked a full restaurant shift. The only difference was my butt hurt more than my feet.

It occured to me, once I finally took a break, that as a server and as a sales associate, I wasn't always busy. I wasn't always moving. There was plenty of time for me to stand and gather my thoughts throughout my shifts, to chat with my co-workers, to goof around in the kitchen or the storeroom. I wasn't constantly completely focused on my work the entire shift.

My attention span couldn't take it this morning, and even though I wasn't taking intentional breaks my brain would go on strike, which is how I found myself day dreaming or staring off into space at nothing.

The lack of breaks in the morning and the toll it took on me continued to show throughout the afternoon. I had a Webinar immediately following lunch, training me for the new version of a program I use every day. Try as I might, I could not pay attention. For a few minutes I would be focused, and then I'd find myself off in la-la-land again. Fortunately most of the program updates are to make it more user friendly and I caught enough that I shouldn't have a problem with the upgrade, but the point is that I meant to pay attention and I couldn't.

People need breaks. We need a few minutes here and there to shift our focus. Whether it's standing up and walking away from the computer, or just letting our brain do the walking to something other than the project at hand. Otherwise work truly becomes a daily grind, scouring mental acuity down to a thin splinter which is easily broken by the time the afternoon arrives. 

I'm going to have to change #63 to something more realistic, especially since it's in the Self-Improvement category and right now I feel grumpily unimproved.

*Articles I looked at while writing this entry:

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