Dean Shareski blogged a few weeks ago about being busy, and Ryan Collins picked up on it. Dean’s point is that eveyone’s busy all the time. It’s a badge of honor that we all wear from time to time. We must be pretty important if we have all of these things to do. Or, maybe, pretty inefficient. But telling someone how busy you are is about as insightful as telling them you’ve been doing a lot of breathing lately, or that you ate dinner again last night.
It’s interesting to me how others react to my busyness, or their perception of it. Several times a week, people will stop me in the hall, and say something like, “boy, you must be really busy.” They want to chat about it. I want to get the mail server running. I just smile, acknowledge their concern, and move on. For the most part, I work with a sympathetic — if not empathetic staff.
But there are those who are on their own missions. They don’t care what I might be doing, or how overwhelmed I may be at the moment. They walk in to my office, have a seat, and start explaining how technology is ruining their productivity today. My top priority has just switched from whatever I was working on to getting them out of my office. These are the people who make me so busy.
Yesterday, I was programming. I am not a programmer. I can fumble my way though PHP and MySQL, but 95% of what I learned in my undergrad programming classes has been long forgotten (if you care, here’s the useful 5%). So, when I program, I can’t multitask. I even close my email client to avoid distraction.
The application I was working on extracts data from an LDAP database, merges it with data from an SQL database, creates an export file in a certain format, and then uploads that file to a remote server, where it gets imported into their database. It’s not rocket science, but, then again, I’m not a rocket scientist (Dieu Merci).
So I’m trying to figure out why, at the end of all of this code, some of the phone numbers are only three digits. I think I have it nailed down to a few lines of perl code in a function called by the php script. The phone rings. I glance at the callerID. It’s not my wife; it’s not my boss. So I let it go to voice mail and jump back into the code. Five minutes later, the caller appears in my doorway. She needs a one-on-one tutorial on using a WYSIWYG web interface to update her web page. It has to be right now, because she’s very busy. So, I stop and go through it with her (again). Forty minutes later, I’m back to the phone numbers. I eventually solved the problem, but didn’t get to the second item on my to-do list.
Sure, it’s my job to help her, and I did. I tried (somewhat successfully) not to act like I was completely annoyed at the interruption. The truth is, I have two jobs. One is to be the behind-the-scenes person who makes everything work. The other is to support all of the people who use it. A lot of times, those two roles collide, and result in “busy.”
I’d like to write more about this, but I really don’t have time right now…