Learning on the Job

I have said a few different times that temping, for me, is like a grand experiment. I can try different attitudes and approaches to work. I have been at the same place, but in three months, they have made me do at least three different jobs. I have used four different kinds of daily To-Do lists on three different kinds of paper. I have used three different types of notebooks. I have eaten lunch out and at my desk. I have left early. I have practiced radical honestly. I have taken many deep breaths. I have been hyper-generous to the people who are the most frustrating to me. I have been deliberate in my work behaviors, refusing to send out emails until I spell-checked them twice. I have decided that I hate my work wardrobe, and possibly my wardrobe in general. I will read 7,000 word true crime journalism at my desk, but still cannot bring myself to watch Internet videos at work.

I have tried to do all these things in an effort to understand what makes me a better worker, and what are the systems that I like to use, and that allow me to work the most effectively and efficiently as I can.

Here are some things I have learned:

1) Even though I gravitate towards doing this, an email inbox is not a To-Do list. A paper To-Do list is a To-Do list. (Watch Inbox Zero right now. Again.)

2) Scheduling time for my tasks is my favorite way to use a calendar, but it doesn’t work if other people have access to and use your calendar for meetings. Although, if people respect your calendar, it might work extraordinarily well to create boundaries around your time, especially for deadline driven projects.

3) I do not respond well to brief, unclear or gruff communication. Whether written from your Blackberry or your desk, using shorthand and abbreviations makes me super irritated, and unlikely to want to assist you.

4) Managers who are disorganized do not engender trust in their employees, and those who depend on other people to be organized for them end up forcing colleagues to repeat work, creating frustration and resentment.

5) No tool is the right tool if not everyone will use it.

6) Follow through matters. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you don’t or can’t do a task, something is wrong. If I have to remind you to do something two or five times, something is wrong. This goes for managing up and managing down.

7) Nobody in America eats lunch anywhere other than at their desk, and it makes me SO SAD.

8) For the love of God, invest in a database that works and that everyone will use.

9) Giving someone step by step instructions about how to do something is the least likely way to foster creativity and self-regard, especially in younger workers. Teaching through suggestion and anecdote is usually more effective.

10) Transparency is not the same as assuming that everyone knows the same information that you know.

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