Who’s Working?


The gas company has been replacing gas mains in my neighborhood for the last few weeks. They’re not done.

At 7am this morning, the gas main replacement guys dumped a big pile of dirt in front of our house, right outside my office window. The walk you see on the left is the walk from our front door to the street.

I have to say, between the noise and my fascination with the dirt, I’ve barely been working. I was fine when they were farther away. But now, right in front of my office? No. I have barely been working.

The truck drivers, the gas main guys—they’re all working. Me? Not so much. In fact, I was having so much trouble writing this week’s post, I decided I would go meta and write about why I wasn’t writing.

Does this ever happen to you? You know you have work to do. You want to do the work. And, something in your environment is saying just as mine was, “Johanna, go look over there.” (Insert your name where mine is.)

It doesn’t happen to me very often. When it does, it’s a doozy.

Here’s what I did today:

  • Talked to the duck. The problem? I couldn’t hear myself. It was too loud.
  • Asked myself what other alternatives I could work on, aside from writing. I didn’t want to do any of them.
  • Took a walk. That allowed me to go meta on the problem and ask what was preventing me from working.

The last solution—taking a walk—was the most helpful. I might have realized that the loudness was preventing me from any work, not just the writing I wanted to finish. But, I didn’t. I didn’t realize until I took the walk that the outside noise disturbed me that much.

You might not have noise as an interruption. You might not have the gas people tearing up your neighborhood. (I have many more pix showing how they work incrementally.) I bet you have something else.

Here are some possibilities I’ve seen in organizations:

  • You have meetings that start on the hour and last an hour. You have back-to-back meetings all day. If you have 10 minutes somewhere, you might use it to rest or take a bio break. But, you can’t even think about tackling something from your not-meeting list.
  • You’re trying to multitask on several projects. You’re not making any progress.
  • You have a cold, or you didn’t sleep well or enough last night. You just can’t get going.

You can try what I did: go meta. What can you do to solve the problem of you not being able to work?

  • Can you stop going to all those meetings? Can you change the frequency of the meetings or the duration?
  • Can you make your tasks smaller and finish something before you try another project? Can you pair or swarm with other people to finish work?
  • Can you take a nap? Drink some tea, something to help you feel better? Maybe even go home to get better?

Until I had the transforming idea that it wasn’t just me, I could see the problem. That’s the first step in solving it—seeing your reality.

That is the question this week: Who’s working? (I’m happy to say that I am, now.)


8 thoughts on “Who’s Working?

  1. netmouser

    Ha! This brings back memories. When my street was repaved (reconstruction, they dig it up first) about 15 years ago, they left a huge pile of dirt next to my house right before the weekend. Uncovered. Over the weekend, there was a ton of strong wind that splattered the dirt on the siding of my house. I had just had my house painted a month or two before this. It took a really long time to get an agreement with the town and contractor (who used a 3rd party) to pay the bill to power wash my house, and repaint some of it.

    And, as life is full of coincidences, this month they are doing my street again. But, fortunately, this time there won’t be a dirt pile to spread between new curbing and sidewalks.

    1. netmouser

      Ale, great Ted Talk. Unfortunately, next to it on YouTube are an unending list of other wonderful Ted Talks. That could keep me procrastinating for days, even months.

      1. johanna Post author

        I succumbed and watched one. Then I ask myself, “What are you doing, Johanna????” I stopped. I promised myself I would watch later. Is that procrastinating on the procrastination?

        1. johanna Post author

          BTW, the gas main guys returned yesterday. I first tried to ignore the jackhammering. I gave up after about 10 minutes and took a walk. The walk was great for my steps and my mood. I got right back to work after the walk.

    2. johanna Post author

      Ale, too funny! Yes, I started to get lost in funny youtube videos. Definitely not one of my productive working days :-)

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