Friday, February 22, 2008

Caution: Critical Thinking Ahead

Today is the last of my two-armed blogs for a while.

That may sound strange, but true. On Monday, I go under the knife (gasp) to have torn tendons fixed in my elbow. I'll be in a full cast for a couple of weeks, then face whatever comes after that. While I've planned ahead as much as possible (turning in work early, advising people I may be on drugs), there's still a knot in my stomach as I contemplate what's going to happen when I can't even do my own hair, and can't write (it's my right elbow and I'm right handed...of course).

But, being a Little Miss Organizer, I've already gotten a new wireless track mouse for my computer that will make it easier for me to use while in a cast. I've stocked the freezer with easy foods and even written out a day-by-day menu for my family. I've paid the bills early, made sure there's plenty of dog and cat food in the house and stocked the garage with enough toilet paper and paper towels that we won't run out until the next presidential election.

Still, I think what I'm the most leery about is what I'm going to do with my mind while I'm forced to recuperate. My doctor has issued strict instructions: rest, rest and rest. "Stay off that %$# computer!" he warned me. "And once your cast comes off, stay off that $%^ computer!"

Of course, he knows that's not going to happen, but I've been in enough pain for more than a year now that I'm not foolish enough to go back to work too soon and ruin all his hard work.

I remember a CEO of a Fortune 100 company I interviewed about 10 years ago who was retiring. He told me at the time that what he was most concerned about regarding the success of American businesses was not our ability to be productive, or our ability to compete on a day-to-day basis. What worried him, he said, was our lack of critical thinking skills that would really impact us in the coming years.

How many bosses, he asked me, would think it was OK to see an employee reading a book while on the job? How many managers, he said, wouldn't have a problem finding a worker staring out a window for an hour?

The CEO said that most managers would hit the roof if they saw an employee doing either of those activities. The reason, he said, was because workers were becoming so task-oriented that they were judged more on their busyness than their ability to think. And, without that, American companies would not have the creative and innovative solutions they needed to stay ahead of the curve, he said.

This conversation from 10 years ago is ringing very true with me lately. I know that I spend less time just thinking. I've become very task focused, and much less comfortable just sitting somewhere and contemplating life, or reading a book just because it will expand my mind, and not because it has something to do with my work.

I see employees every day grapple with how to stay ahead of e-mail and phone calls and meetings, with little or no incentive to just take time to think. Shoot -- people don't even want to take all their vacation time because it's too much hassle to get away, and even when they do go somewhere, they take e-mail and cell phones with them. They multitask like crazy, even though it's been shown that's a less productive strategy.

As I write this last two-armed blog, I know that the coming weeks will be interesting, unsettling, frustrating and filled with lots of bad hair days. At the same time, I know that I'm lucky in many ways because I'm going to do something I've needed to do for a while: think.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Day at the Orifice

It's time for Tidbit Tuesday, the time of the week I prowl around the Web and see if I can find some interesting things to share. Also, my thanks to those who sent in items that saved me from having the prowl around the Web looking for items to share.

We're happier than we let on: The Wall Street Journal notes: "So many people tell you to 'follow your dreams' -- from commencement speakers to executive coaches -- that it is easy to get the impression you aren't. But there is scant evidence that people aren't doing pretty much what they want; and putting the kids through school often tops the dream list.
While people may talk about freeing themselves from work once they're done with the bulk of child-rearing costs, they usually don't. The Families and Work Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, found that only 3% of parents over 57 years old whose youngest child is between 22 and 25 said they were very likely to leave their job in the next year. And the same paltry percentage said they were 'somewhat likely' to leave their job in the next year."
The bottom line: While complaining about a job is a popular pasttime, the truth is that many people like their jobs, and wouldn't go to the Bahamas at a moment's notice even if they had the time and the cash. They're just as happy staying home, taking care of the family and living their lives.

That eggnog is a killer: With cold weather and holiday parties just around the corner, the office can be particularly hazardous for putting on extra pounds. Forty-nine percent of workers say they have gained weight at their current jobs, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, of more than 5,600 workers nationwide.
Tips to keep the extra pounds off include: stocking your desk drawers with healthy snacks (Krispy Kreme doesn't count...I checked); drinking water throughout the day to curb your snarfing tendencies; packing a healthy lunch from home; chewing gum or chatting with co-workers to keep your mouth busy with something other than shoving in that last piece of chocolate cake; and starting a support group.

Wait until you see what I can do with Legos: There appears to be a "creativity gap" between American creativity and what their job demands of their creative resources. According to the Creativity Survey:
* 88 percent of Americans believe they are creative
*75 percent of Americans believe their employer values their creativity
*61 percent of Americans believe they work for creative company
*63 percent of Americans believe they work in a creative position

Somebody's gotta do it: Crime scene cleaner. Bull semen collector. Bikini area waxer. Some of these jobs may not appeal to everyone, but for the people who do them, there's a real sense of satisfaction in completing the job. Reports Forbes: "People who do the dirtiest and sometimes most stomach-turning jobs say they enjoy seeing the quick results of their labor. Unlike a banker who might take months--even years--to complete a deal, or an author who works on a book for a similar period of time, the dirtiest jobs can often be the most rewarding. And for some of these workers, it's all just another day at the orifice."

"Hi, my name is..." ":The way you manage the first weeks with a new employee can boost someone's entire career. And if you're the new guy, there's no better time to make new relationships and start your career off in the right direction," says Fast Company. If you're the newbie, some ways to get off on the right foot include: introducing yourself to as many people as possible; talking to the boss and finding out three things you should do and three things you should never do; helping everyone; and becoming an expert in something that will really help your employer's bottom line.

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