Apr 142009
The ten faces of the Doctor.
Image via Wikipedia

Appointments… a simple concept: you arrange a time and place to meet, both parties turn up as arranged, you do whatever business needs to get done and you both go on your merry way again. Easy, efficient and practical.

Easy, efficient and practical, that is, as long as it’s not remotely connected with the medical profession. The merest whiff of anything medical and the notion of fixed appointments morphs into something extraordinarily convoluted and apparently unmanageable. Why?

I’m writing this sitting in a doctors waiting room. My appointment was at 12:00pm, I arrived at 11:50am, it’s now 12:15pm and I’m still sitting here, surrounded by sick people, breathing in a noxious cocktail of contagious pathogens.

I have a business appointment at a hotel down the road at 12:30. I figured that half-an hour would be plenty of time to check out a lingering pulled shoulder muscle with the doctor. How wrong can you be? In business, if I make an appointment for 12:00 I’d better be ready to meet that person at 12:00, otherwise I can kiss their business goodbye. But somehow that logic manages to evade the medical mindset. Rather than a discrete and accurate sliver of time, appointments in the medical sense tend to be more of a fuzzy guideline indicating that you’ll probably get to see a doctor sometime that day. They’re designed, from what I can see, to keep self-important medical receptionists of questionable competence in work. The reality is that regardless of your appointment time you’ll be seen on a first-come-first-served basis, and frankly that’s simply not good enough. Continue reading »

Mar 192009
Board meeting room
Image via Wikipedia

It’s difficult to think of anything that wastes your precious time more than attending meetings.

Working parents around the country lament the fact that they don’t have enough time to spend with their children. But if you add up how much time those same working parents spend travelling to, waiting for and sitting around in pointless meetings you’d be shocked at the results. A huge chunk of the working population waste days – weeks even – every year sitting in meetings. And for what? To talk about things that could have been discussed on the telephone or online, or to listen to things that don’t really concern them at all. What a waste!

Sometimes in any business you need the face-to-face collaborative communication that only a meeting can provide. But the truth is those occasions are much rarer than you might think. These days days, thanks to the internet and the wonders of digital communications technology, there’s usually an alternative that would work just as well, if not better, would be quicker, and would prevent participants having to travel long distances to attend. Ireland just hasn’t been open to exploring the opportunities. Continue reading »

Mar 052009
The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

Time… there’s never enough of it these days!

You’d think, being linear, that time would be an easy thing to manage — sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year and so on. It’s steady, predictable, and one of the few things in this world that really is a constant. But the reality, of course is that managing time is anything but simple.

The human mind is an incredibly powerful piece of kit — and nowhere is that better illustrated than in the way it takes the steady, linear progression of time and warps it into a convoluted mess that leaves us wondering what day of the week it is.

Time stretches out…. time compresses… time stands still… time accelerates. Time is, indisputably, a constant, and yet our perception of it is anything but. It’s fluid, dynamic, and it drives me insane.

Take this morning for example. I have several deadlines to meet — this column, for one, and I can guarantee that because I have something I need to get done by a given time, this morning will zip along at breakneck pace. Hours will evaporating faster than I can tap keys on the keyboard. But if I was waiting for something then the tables would turn… each second, minute, hour would draw out to eternity.

Why can’t we just see time as the constant it is? What cruel twist of evolution instructed our brain to twist it so? To what end? How is it helpful in the slightest?

The one consolation I guess is that this happens to everyone. There’s never enough time when there’s something you need to get finished, and there’s always too much time when you’re waiting around for something to happen. It’s a universal illusion that affects the entire human race. Time marches along its merry way at the same pace regardless of what’s happening in our lives, but somehow knowing that doesn’t seem to help.

Our perception of time fluctuates enormously, and that’s never truer than when you have children. They imperceptibly steal huge chunks of your day: getting them ready for school, helping with homework, resolving the inevitable disputes and, occasionally, averting all-out-warfare all take time. Some days it seems that I only have to blink and it’s bedtime, and another huge chunk of time falls into the temporal black hole that is parenthood.

With work, jobs around the house and the inexorable demands of parenthood to deal with it’s little wonder that 2009 is disappearing fast. I hardly seem to have drawn breath since Christmas, and without warning it’s March. How did that happen? To say it’s been a blur would be an understatement, but the real issue looking back at the first two months of this year is that I can’t really remember spending quality time with the family. A stolen hour here, an afternoon there, but certainly not enough, and always with the distraction of a busy life lurking on the periphery of my subconscious.

I’m self employed and work from home… a conscious decision to give me the flexibility to spend more time with my family. Somewhere along the line the pressures of earning a crust and the duplicitous nature of time have contrived to steal that away. It ends here!

If you can’t make the time to go to the beach with the kids, to take an hour in the evening to read with them, to play the occasional mindless game just for the hell of it… to share in the boundless fun and enthusiasm of their childhood… then what’s the point? We can’t control time — but we can control how we make use of the time we have, and it seems that it’s time I re-aligned my priorities. How about you?

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Jan 232009
Merry Christmas Happy New Year

Image by kajvin via Flickr

I was reflecting recently on the Christmas and New Year break.

Over the holidays I took some time off, like lots of people, but as well as taking time off work, I also found myself paying little attention to the various blogs I look after (this one included). Family, friends, children and the like took precedence… which is only right and proper.

So why did I find myself feeling guilty for not blogging?

As I pondered this question I had to ask whether a line been crossed somewhere in my subconscious. When had blogging taken on such a level of gravity in my life. How could I possibly feel even the tiniest twinge of guilt for choosing to spend time with my family instead of posting stuff online?

It’s a fine line… and while it’s obviously important to keep a steady stream of content flowing on the blog(s) there are many, many things in life that are far more important.

Sometimes I look at the flood of posts from prolific Irish bloggers like Damien Mulley, Alexia Golez, and others in my feed reader and despair. Between work, family and other commitments I don’t have time to read all this stuff, let alone write my own.

But then I realised that it doesn’t really matter… not in the grand scheme of things. Different people have different priorities, are at different stages in their lives and are blogging under vastly different circumstances. A missed post here, a sparse week there… so what!

I enjoy writing the blog – that’s why I do it – but feeling guilty for not posting isn’t an acceptable part of the equation.

I purposely didn’t make a new year’s resolution this year… but in hindsight I think I probably will take up a belated one: I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT BLOGGING!

In 2009 I’ll post here and elsewhere when I can, when I want to and as time allows… without any guilt, remorse or regret for failing to maintaining a punishing posting schedule.

What about you?

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May 052008

Who do you really work for?

It’s not a trick question, it’s not that I suspect you’re involved in some sort of shady commercial espionage. It’s a simple, straightforward query:

  • Do you work for your supervisor?

  • Do you work for your line manager?

  • Do you work for your HR Department?

  • Do you work for your CEO?

The answer, of course, is none of the above. When you break it down we go to work for ourselves. Whether we’re self employed, working on the shop floor, of a high-flying executive with a swanky corner office… we work to support ourselves, our families and the lifestyle we’ve chosen to live. Work is a means to an end, and while you might enjoy, or even love what you’re doing, ultimately it’s just a vehicle for your financial security, personal achievement and development, fulfilment and, ultimately, happiness.

Unfortunately we tend to forget all of that. We get caught up in the frantic hustle and bustle of working life. Long hours, stress, unrealistic expectations, unmanageable workloads and tortuous commutes conspire to erode the very things we’re working to secure.

Continue reading »

Apr 282008

Published in the Evening Echo 28/04/2008

image Do you ever feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day? Well, you’d be right. Researchers in the US recently discovered that typical middle-class city dwellers are cramming 31 hours worth of ‘life’ into each 24 hour period thanks to multi-tasking and an array of time saving gizmos.

Hands up who’s checked their e-mail on their laptop or blackberry while making their morning coffee? Or used a bluetooth headset to join a conference call on the commute to work, while listening to the traffic report on the radio and checking out alternative routes on the sat-nav?

We’re multi-tasking like crazy to try and squeeze more into our busy lives. Apparently the technology of today has allowed us, for better or for worse, to shoe-horn an additional seven hours worth of tasks into the average day compared to only a decade ago (primitive old 1998 – back when nobody had ever heard of Google).

After a flurry of activity in the morning we arrive at work – which is often a blur of e-mails, calls and meeting combines with switching between multiple tasks to meet unrealistic deadlines. But, according to the study, conducted by global consumer research firm OTX, all of the multitasking we do during our working day pales in comparison to the frantic task juggling that happens once we get home in the evenings.

Continue reading »

Mar 272008

Time ticking away Time is a curiously elastic commodity. One minute it’s flying by so quickly you don’t even notice it’s passing, the next it draws out into what seems an eternity. Have you ever looked at the clock, thought you had plenty of time to do whatever it is you needed to get done, only to glance up at it again a few moments later to find all of that time had evaporated?

It happens to me… a lot. Time, in our house, compresses and expands with gleeful abandon. Take this morning for example. This morning started off normally enough, time seemed to be behaving itself. Then the children started “playing” with a bit too much exuberance, time compressed and in the blink of an eye I lost a couple of hours. Suddenly it was lunchtime.

Take an arbitrary period of time… let’s say two weeks. If you were off on your holidays for two weeks, and were set to leave in exactly two weeks you can guarantee that the fortnight before you travel will drag on interminably, while your two weeks in the sun will veritably fly by. You’ll be home again almost before you realise you’ve been away. That’s time playing it’s “funny” little games again.

Continue reading »

Dec 042007

At the IT@Cork Technology in Business conference last week, a fantastic day was rounded off perfectly when my name was drawn at the end-of-conference drinks reception and I walked away the proud new owner of a HP iPAQ Voice Messenger Smartphone.


The HP iPAQ 514 voice messenger — so much more than just a phone

First impressions are great — it crams a fully functional Windows Mobile 6.0 pocket PC into a package that’s no bigger than your average mobile phone, and with WiFi and Bluetooth onboard, VoIP capability, and support for push e-mail, POP3 and IMAP it’s got everything you need stay productive on the road.

I’ll post a more detailed review when I’ve had chance to play with it — but up to now I’m delighted with it. I was thinking of upgrading my clunky old Nokia anyway — and this, as they say, will do nicely.

Oct 302007

“Working it” column published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on 29/10/2007

Time! You can almost hear it tick-tocking away… and the more you have to do, the quicker it seems to tick.

I’m hopeless at managing my time. Oh, I know the theory. Prioritise, just say no, structure your work, focus on the most difficult thing first, delegate… yaddy, yaddy, yadda!

I have structured, prioritised to-do-list’s coming out of my ears, and my hard-drive is crammed with time-saving, productivity-enhancing gizmos that beep and whistle at me when I should be doing things. I have a plethora of time management options spread before me. Why then, don’t I have enough time?

Continue reading »

Oct 232007

"Working it" column published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on 22/10/2007

Back in the “bad old days” when I worked in an office, I’d often find myself sitting through pointless meetings, idly twiddling my thumbs as someone too fond of their own voice droned on about something that everyone in the room already knew. There’d be no clear agenda to these mind-numbing exercises in superfluous bureaucracy, and more tangents than your average trigonometry lesson.

Eventually, via a protracted and tortuous route, the meeting would close pretty much back where it had started. It invariably achieved zip, nada, zilch – apart from wasting inordinate amounts of time and money, and generally leaving attendees frustrated and annoyed.

Not all meetings were like that, of course… but the overriding impression I’d have when leaving most meetings was that my time could have been more productively engaged doing something else.

Continue reading »