Tag Archives: Making decisions

Time Well Spent

Reading.  Time reading is never ill spent, even if I’m not too fond of whatever I happen to be reading.  Reading is a wonderful way to pass the time, to feed your mind, to learn, to escape…  Even if I manage to forget much what I read, it was still time spent well.

 

My former mother-in-law thought time reading in the middle of the day was just about the most decadent thing ever.  A person who was doing – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. – was spending time wisely.  Reading wasn’t doing in her book.  (And don’t even mention napping.)  I do agree with her that doing is productive.  But reading is productive as well.

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Productive.  To produce, create, generate.  Time well spent should produce something.

 

I’ve mentioned here before that I am terrible when it comes to planning for myself.  Many weekends I wind up irritated with myself because I didn’t plan for this time away from work.  Plan to get things done, or plan for a little bit of fun.  I ask myself if those weekend hours are then time well spent?  At the end of each day I can point to ways that I was productive, though some of it repetitively so.  Such as errands and laundry, cleaning.

 

Work hours can be just as confusing when asking whether we are productive – if I got things done, but not necessarily the things that I expected to do, was it time well spent?  Was I productive?  What if you did exactly what you expected to do but didn’t get the result that you expected?  Was that time well spent, was it productive?

 

So much to do, so little time.  The time that we get here is finite, spend it wisely.  But was is time spent well when there is so much to do?

 

Reading.  I’ll spend more time reading and think about this more later.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Here You Go

Problem solving has been an important part of my job description for as long as I can remember.  I like to put on the detective hat and sift through things to find the parts that are important, put them together in the right configuration and arrive at a solution.  Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to figure out and sometimes plenty about the situation is a bit ambiguous.

 

There is one thing about problem solving that got old a long time ago, but is part and parcel of the problem solver’s lot in my experience.  It is the person who makes it a habit to hand over partial information, or fragments here and there in multiple email or phone messages.  They want you to solve it, but they can’t be bothered to try to put anything together in any sort of cohesive single place.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I’ll take the person who isn’t sure what they want or need kind of problem over the person who dumps a mess every time.  Most times.  Every once in a while I use the big mess as an excuse to be left alone to puzzle it all into something coherent.  But mostly I see it as a different facet of rude.  That person’s time is more important than mine.  (Though I concede that there may be other ways of looking at it…)

 

Sigh.  Focus on the boost that I hope to get upon resolution and not on the drudgery of slogging through the junk. This is why there are stories of the really good stuff one can find hidden in junk.  Think of ways to prevent the junk dump from repeat offenders.  Get caught up in the chase for the best solution.

 

Don’t be a here you go, dump and run person.  Please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Generosity Toward a Parent

I have had a variety of conversations in recent weeks that when strung together in my thoughts seemed to have similar elements.  The conversations weren’t about the parent-child relationship, but the theme took shape.  It is a central relationship, one that plenty of people experience from each side.

 

As I became a parent, I started to look at my relationship with my own parents differently.  I hadn’t evaluated it since it was a child to adult dynamic.  But I realized that my mom particularly had changed the way that she approached our relationship so that it was adult to adult.  That shift doesn’t always happen when the child moves into adulthood – one or the other side, or both, may prevent it or resist it.

 

I used to have conversations with my mom about the parent-child relationship dynamic – in relation to ours and to mine with my boys.  The conversation tended to come up as the boys transitioned to a new stage of development.  I have really missed the conversations these past years as the boys moved through their later teens and now as I work on forging my side of the adult to adult version with each of them.

 

The shift really starts to come along at the point that the child sees the parent as a person separate from their parental role, it seems to me.  There are glimpses throughout childhood.  I am reminded of a period when the boys took to walking over to a flower shop that a neighbor ran and each buying me a single cut flower.  I think that they initially got the idea from a neighborhood girl, but then kept it up because I showed such delight in their generosity.  They were in early grade school so maybe about 6 or 8.

 

the first flower

the first flower

I’ve mentioned before that my mom went to college starting when I was in grade school.  This meant that she was enmeshed in her own homework and learning experiences.  She graduated from college the same year my brother graduated from high school.  She became an instructor at the same college that I went to and I had to learn to call out her name and not ‘Mom’ if I saw her around campus.  (Which was weird.)

 

The conversations that I have had recently range from a parent of a brand new teen to a friend with sons the same age as mine to a friend who is dealing with the infirmity of her elderly mother.  Generosity toward a parent is so rare as to be non-existent during teen years.  It is a spotty thing, it appears, for twenty-somethings.  And it is hard to sustain in the midst of a crazy-busy middle life toward a parent that is acting more like a stubborn teen.

 

I’ve thought about my responsibility as a parent to encourage my boys to be more giving in our relationship.  It seems to me that learning this must be more deliberate for children of single parents.  When parents are still a couple then each can teach the children to be giving to the other parent.

 

I’m going to have to spend some more time thinking about this.  What do you think?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Unintentional Teamwork

Not only is it still allergy season for me, I am getting over a summer cold therefore I had facial tissues on my store list.  The smaller cube shaped boxes fit well in my bathroom and I was down to my last box.

 

There I stood facing the industrial shelving that holds the paper goods, staring at the several feet of empty space between me and the store brand facial tissue cubes arrayed at the very back.  How helpful.  I looked over at the name brand cubes to my left – of course quite handy.  I looked at the full sized boxes to my right and was quite pleased to see that there was a full selection of the 3 ply version for my main bathroom.  I grabbed a few.  And went back to staring at my intended cubes about five feet from my nose.

 

A woman about my own age came up behind me.  “Did you need some of those?”  She pointed at those cubes.  “Yes, I am considering my options.”

 

I had considered scaling the rack and also going in search of a long stick – say a broom a couple of aisles over.  She clearly had the same thought, disappeared for a moment and came back with a fly swatter.  Smart woman, she leaned in on the shelf below and started to tease the cubes forward.  I looked at her arm-span and offered to help since mine is greater.  The two of us worked in tandem and managed to pull 6-8 cubes forward.

 

public domain image

public domain image

Only to find that they were the kind with lotion.  Drat.  Ingenuity thwarted by the store’s buyer who clearly overbought this kind instead of the plain old ones that we were both after.  We walked our separate ways empty handed.

 

I don’t know if she meant to work together or just get me out of her way so she could achieve her own goal.  I walked away thinking that while ultimately disappointed in my main goal, it had been energizing to work together with this stranger to overcome that obstacle.

 

Facial tissue cubes are still on my store list for this week.  I wonder what will happen?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Subjective, Conditional Experience

Surveys in women’s magazines have such strong allure because they can tell us, once we calculate the results, where we fall on the unique but still comfortably in good company range.  Of course we want to be seen as a valuable and distinct individual, while not in any way too out-of-the-ordinary.  We need concrete, objective definitions for the boundaries then.

 

But life doesn’t work that way.  Plenty of us will do the normal things as we progress through adulthood – find a steady job, pair up and create our own family, settle down with a house and within a community.  But the details will vary wildly and so those concrete definitions of the boundaries get complicated.

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We don’t want to be ‘wrong’ – not make the wrong decision, or somehow not right and therefore not fit in.  Except that survey is just based on someone else’s opinion of what is right, on conjecture.  Or on an agglomeration of averages – a high percentage of people picked this school or that profession which must make them more right.  But right for whom?

 

My mom came across Margaret Mead as she experienced college in her 30s and 40s – when I was in grade school and high school.  She became enamored of Mead’s assertion that one should have a different spouse for the different stages of adulthood (Margaret’s way of proving her own path as the right one, perhaps?) all the while being proud of keeping her own long term marriage intact as she set about increasing her intellectual range.

 

Mom admired a lot about the unconventional choices of others, but she stuck to the conventional ones.  Dad was conventional through and through.  And they raised us to think for ourselves, with a high awareness of rules, mores and convention.

 

These ideas are much bigger than a single blog post, and this post has wandered in a direction that I didn’t originally intend.  I keep coming back to these themes – value, self-definition, individuality – because they are rich and varied.  I am fascinated by the conflict inherit between the draw of conventionality (and acceptance) and the determination of each person to be unique.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Possessing Something New

There is a certain pleasure in having something new, or new to you.  There are those who have no interest in new acquisitions and on the other end of the spectrum there are those who go into debt to feed this pleasure regularly and wind up with too much useless stuff.  But for the majority of us, it is nice to have that occasional thrill of a new possession.

 

I’ve gotten to the stage in life when I consider each purchase; whether it will be useful, where I will put it, do I already have something similar, will it replace something else.  I can easily walk away from something that is mass produced when it comes to decorative items, but artist-made is another thing entirely.  Particularly wood.

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Depending on the item, I might need a period of introduction.  Adjustment in thought.  Perhaps I took those words mothers and grandmothers say too much to heart – be careful, don’t ruin your new (insert name of new item here), you just got that.  I did, after all, manage to ruin a few of those newly acquired things in my growing years.

 

I need a new 4 quart sauce pan.  But so many these new ones have glass lids – yikes.  I’ll keep looking.  (Come to think of it, we had several nice pots that didn’t have lids when I was a kid.  They’d been wedding gifts to mom and dad that came with glass lids…  Maybe it’s hereditary?)

 

I can tell a story about almost everything that I have in my house.  Many of the things were my parents’ or my grandparents’ things.  Other things have come from trips – you can barely see the front of my fridge thanks to all the magnets.  The story and the thing are intertwined.  Perhaps it is the story that captures me most.  But I can’t touch the story like I can run my hand along the secretary that was my grandmother’s.

 

I didn’t buy anything new recently to prompt the thought for this post.  I went to a fine art and craft show with a couple of friends.  We checked out all of the things that people had made.  I was especially drawn to a burled wood bowl that felt like satin.  I had gone hoping to find a gift or two, particularly something for one of the friends because it was her birthday.

 

I’m kind of sorry that I didn’t get myself that bowl.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Do the Lady and the Tiger Still have Power?

Certain events and experiences have a powerful impact far beyond the time that they take to occur.  I think that is a safe assertion to make.  We all know someone who still brings up their glory moment from their distant past every chance that they get.

 

I won’t bore you with a long ago glory moment.  But story moments, now those are worth bringing up again.  In some cases I have let the author (shame on me as someone so interested in writing) or the title fade but the storyline comes back fresh as the day that I read it.  There are many stories from my early teens that have this resonating factor to this day.  Some I read in a classroom and some I stumbled upon in a library.

 

Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger” is one such story.  I read it in Mr. Bruno’s 7th grade class which would make me about 12 I think.  We read some great stuff in Mr. Bruno’s class – I’m sure that I have mentioned him here before.  (The search function in WordPress declares my memory to be faulty, I wrote about him on my old blog – Take it for Your Share and Go On)

 

public domain image

public domain image

Mr. Bruno gave us a writing assignment to determine the end of the story because crafty Frank Stockton left the reader hanging.  Well, I couldn’t settle on a convincing argument for either resolution so I got crafty myself, got into the main character’s head while he pondered his choices and just as he reached for the door he had chosen, my essay ended.  Mr. Bruno loved my piece and gave me an A.  And I learned a great deal about decision making and storytelling.

 

Now I have come home with a new book – bought from the clearance table (double bonus) – that is an anthology of stories where the writer leaves it up to the reader to tie up all the ends.  Guess what story is in the book?  Yes, my old favorite.  Plus it seems Frank Stockton wrote a follow up story and I just adore the title already, “The Discourager of Hesitancy”.  I hope the story lives up to that fabulous title.

 

First, I will have to read “The Lady or the Tiger” again.  And I am a bit hesitant because Thomas Wolfe famously told us You Can’t Go Home Again.  What if the Lady and the Tiger have lost their power over me?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Perception of Control

I feel compelled by circumstances to write on this topic.  In a short span I came across the following links that relate to the topic of control and our perception of our level of control:

3 Reasons You Can’t Climb Out of Your Financial Hole

TheRealMikeRowe on Facebook – 4/19/14 Saturday Mail Call

 

So if I start out this post about control saying that I feel compelled to do something, then who has control?  Well I do, because I didn’t have to pay attention to the forces that happened to bring these examples to me within minutes of each other.  But I am also aware of the influence and how it affects my behavior.  How many people live their lives with a high perception of a lack of control?

 

Too bad we can't have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

We can’t control the weather.

I learned early on that I operate better when I have structure, so I created structure when the situation didn’t provide it.  I see this as a gift of my melancholy.  I also learned that this awareness seems to be rare.  There is an assumption that control is held by others in many instances.

 

If we assume that the control is held by others, then we abdicate any control that we might hold in a given situation.  And it might be that the overall control is held by someone else – but there are almost always aspects of control that we might be able to hold if not wield.

 

The example that comes to mind is the jury that I sat on over 10 years ago.  (Fascinating experience – I highly recommend it, but found it hard to balance my life for those 5 days.)  The young man was on trial for murder because he drove the car in a drive by shooting.  Had he exerted control that night and not taken his crew for that ride, instead followed his original plans to go on a date, there is a high potential that none of us would have been there those January days.  Had his lawyers exerted some control and put up some sort of defense, he might not have been found guilty.

 

I could go on with that more extreme example.  There are plenty of examples every day.  Maybe someone regularly interrupts you at the office.  You could find a firm and suitable response that lets that person know you will find them when you are available instead of letting the interruptions continue.

 

I thought it was interesting that most of the comments that I read through on the financial article didn’t address the points of the article at all, rather unconsciously reinforced the first point that many people have a perception of lack of control over their own financial solutions.  Awareness of where you might take control, no matter how small, is a first step.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Wrong Pickles put you in a Pickle

My son goes through about a jar of pickles per week.  Dill spears or slices.  This week he accidentally picked up a jar of bread and butter sweet pickles at the store and only figured it out after he had opened the jar and taken a big bite out of a slice.

 

Now not only is he highly disappointed that he has the wrong pickles and irritated with himself that he didn’t pay closer attention, he has to figure out what to do with the pickles that we have before I’ll buy a jar of the correct pickles.  Drat & aggravation.

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I have done this very thing – ended up with the wrong item due to inattention, I read the info on the shelf but didn’t check the label on the item that I picked up.  Figuring it out at home putting the groceries away or worse just when I go to use the item.  It’s a pickle for sure.

 

It is like your brain rushes ahead to the next thing.  Like pulling in to your driveway and not being sure how you got home.  Or not registering someone’s name when you first meet.  The opposite of mindful in-the-moment.  Not quite absent minded.

 

It would make a bit more sense if we were in a hurry at the store.  I had an action packed day last week and had trouble adjusting my thoughts once I got to my last meeting in the evening.  I had to tell myself to breathe a couple of times before I could settle in.  A blip in attention would have made sense then.

 

What is the weirdest thing that put you in a pickle in a moment of inattention?  And any suggestions for what to do with bread and butter sweet pickles?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Complaint or Solution?

It’s been a long week of varying sized hassles after last week’s hassles and the week before that.  Hassles, snarls, frustrations – don’t have to move very far in any particular direction to slam into one.  It is what it is.  Job security.  Life.

public domain image

public domain image

 

 

“If they would just…” begins the statement – ‘they’ being some power-that-be at work – and so formulates the complaint.  ‘They’ should fix something to make my work go more smoothly.  I can’t meet my deadlines because ‘they’ make the process more difficult.  And on and on in hundreds of permutations goes the complaint.

 

More personally, ‘she’ – when a person accepts a position as a boss that person must expect to become part of ‘they’, a representative of management induced worker frustrations – ‘she’ expects too much.  (If you aren’t ready or willing to be ‘she’ or ‘he’ – personally representing ‘they’ – then think twice about being a boss.  It comes with the territory, even in the best of circumstances.)

 

The complaints slip out as an easy release when coworkers talk in pairs or groups.  Sensible, short term stress relief.  But also potentially toxic.

 

Complaints aren’t a be all and end all, but a starting point for a solution.  If you want something to get better a complaint by itself isn’t going to accomplish anything.  A complaint by itself is an abdication of any responsibility for improvement.  A complaint by itself is acceptance of the hassle as part of your lot.

 

com·plaint Dictionary.com

[kuhm-pleynt]

noun

  1. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment,or grief; lament; faultfinding:
  2. his complaint about poor schools.

 

In order for a complaint to become an effective long term method for hassle reduction, it has to move into being a solution.

 

I’ve seen the echo of ‘she’ coworker complaints on plenty of faces over the years.  More than I can count.  But I can count the number of times that someone on my team has come forward to ask for clarification, to talk further, to want to discuss a potential solution.  And I don’t mean guns blazing accusations, but measured discussion.  Seeking understanding.  I wish I could say this approach was utilized more.

 

Nobody really intends to create hassles – well, ok some small subset of the population gets a kick out of it.  Plans filter down from senior management to middle management to the people that get it done day after day.  Honest discussions about improving the plan can happen at any level.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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