I’m very busy not working

I broke one of my own rules today and brought home some work to do tonight. It’s just some reading for a meeting I have to attend tomorrow so it’s not too onerous, but still, I hate the fact that I didn’t get a chance to do it at work.

It’s hard to get any actual work done at work.

There are lots of tasks I find it hard to complete at work, and reading anything remotely serious or complex can be an enormous challenge. I find it quite hard to get to the end of a long email sometimes. Many people have been commenting on this lately, so my complaint isn’t new, but I think that the well-known causes – noise, distractions and constant interruptions – are not only impacting on reading, but on thinking as well.

This is bad news for those of us who have jobs that require deep thinking, or for people who just like to do the kind of deep thinking that results in clarity of mind or creative output. The office is a terrible environment for thinking. Let’s face it – important work requires concentration and effort – you need somewhere quiet to work and most workplaces are usually the last place to find a quiet haven.

Not only am I constantly interrupted at work, increasingly I find that I am quite adept at interrupting myself!

It seems hard to settle down and concentrate on the task at hand. For a long time I thought this was just a form of procrastination, but increasingly I realise that it’s a kind of habit that I’ve been developing. Every time I get into some kind of ‘flow’ I suddenly remember that I’m not supposed to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time (its bad for your back) or I suddenly start thinking that I desperately need a cup of tea.

The other thing that stops me getting things done is that I’m too helpful. If I get asked for assistance, I’m always eager to stop what I’m doing and help someone out. This is nice for my colleagues I guess, but it doesn’t help me get things done.

I’m not sure what the answer is (apart from wearing noise cancelling headphones). How could I listen to the conversations around me with headphones on? I also worry about involuntary swearing when someone sneaks up and taps me on the shoulder.

I do know that I am going to have to work harder at concentrating so that I can spend my evenings reading for pleasure, rather than for work.

Any thoughts?

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No special talent required

According to the physicist Richard Feynman, no special talent or ability is required to understand quantum mechanics. There is only practice, reading and learning. Feynman claims that anyone who is willing to devote the necessary time and energy can become a scientist and that he is not especially brilliant, just persistent.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’m pretty sure that the same could be said of most creative endeavours. Sure it helps if you are a little bit talented, but the good news is that being good at most things is merely a case of hard work and dedication. If you’re like me and you’re a little bit lazy, this may actually come as bad news. I spend a lot of time doing anything other than working and then claim that I’m just not very gifted. The truth is that you can become quite proficient at most things if you put enough effort into it.

As I write this I can hear my husband painstakingly picking out the notes to a new tune on his ukulele. I know that in a week or so he will have mastered yet another new song. I know that I could probably do a great many things reasonably well if only I put in some hard practice.

So that’s where I’m off to now. I need to buckle down and do some work, how about you?