Tag Archives: work

Why Work Is Cyclical

In theory, my workload should proceed as a steady flow of predictable effort year round. In reality, it doesn’t happen that way.work

It takes five weeks from start to finish to produce one issue of one magazine, and Connections Magazine is published six times a year. Medical Call Center News and Answer Stat releases every other month, while TAS Trader releases every month. This means I’m typically working on two or three issues of one publication or another at any given time.

This results in a steady, expected ebb and flow of activity. In addition, are blogs which are updated weekly, and scheduled monthly duties. It would seem that my work should smoothly move from one day to the next, evenly paced throughout the year.

The reality is that my effective workload is quite cyclical. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, things are slow. Between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s extremely slow. It’s also slow during the summer. After Memorial Day, things drop off. And after the Fourth of July, it’s as if someone turned off a switch; it stays that way until Labor Day.

The times between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day, as well as Labor Day to Thanksgiving Day are my “busy times.”Secondary email messages result in a huge productivity drain Click To Tweet

Ironically, I have the same amount of work to do throughout the year, but it takes twice as long to accomplish it during my “busy times.” The reason is that during my “busy times,” I receive more phone calls and email messages (mostly email). These communications don’t directly relate to my work of publishing magazines or websites, but they are tangential to it.

The flood of these secondary interactions is so much so that during my “slow times” I can generally do all required work in 3 to 6 hours a day, whereas during my “busy times” it takes 6 to 10 hours to accomplish the same amount of essential work. In fact, during my “busy times,” some Mondays are so bad, that all I do is respond to email messages. Some Friday afternoons are like that as well.

My conclusion is that these secondary email messages result in a huge productivity drain—in my case about 50 percent. If I can just curb non-essential email, I could reclaim a great deal of lost productivity.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Time Lag

We’ve all heard about jet lag, that messed up, disconcerted thing that happens to our bodies after flying across time zones. It’s been said that each time zone crossed equates to one day of recovery.  For my constitution, that may be a bit generous. Though thinking back to when I frequently flew, I suspect that the more regularly one travels, the less the effect. Interestingly, flying west (“gaining” time) doesn’t faze me as much; but the return trip (“losing” time) really sets me back.Time lag from daylight-savings time (DST)

A similar disturbance happens to me each time we switch from “normal” time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. I call this phenomenon “time lag.”'Time Lag'—happens to me each time we switch from 'normal' time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. Click To Tweet

Just as in flying west, the fall DST switch causes a relatively minor disruption to my sleep equilibrium. However, the “spring forward” time change throws me off for several days, just as does a flight east that crosses several time zones.

When we lived in Wisconsin (which is on the eastern part of the Central time zone), DST made sense—it was an appropriate shift of the clock to better match the rising and setting of the sun.

However, Michigan is on the far western part of the Eastern Time Zone, and it’s never made sense. For the majority of the year, my reasonable 6 am rising is in the dark. On the summer solstice, dusk doesn’t occur until after 10:30 pm. And a scant two weeks later, we have to wait well after 11 pm just to watch fireworks. What nonsense!

I’d just as soon forget the whole daylight-savings time thing and lose the time lag along with it.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Exciting Millennial Generation

It seems that I’ve recently heard a lot of complaints about this “younger generation,” known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (those born after 1984—or between 1980 and 2000—depending who’s doing the explaining).Employers moan that Millennials don’t want to work; they arrive late, lack motivation, and do not make good employees.Customers complain than Generation Y doesn’t seem to care and looks strange.The Exciting Millennial Generation

True, each successive generation causes angst and head scratching from their elders.However, with Gen-Y there is an additional factor at play—the emergence of a postmodern mindset.(See What Does Postmodern Mean?) Generally, Gen-Y, and to a lesser extent Gen-X that preceded them, have postmodern perspectives on life, whereas prior generations are more likely modern thinkers.Herein is the rub that causes the above frustrations.

One element of the postmodern outlook is that they want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world.Career, wealth, and possessions tend to have little draw to postmodern people.And this excites me.

I recently asked a 21-year young lass if she would soon be graduating from college.(This was a bad assumption on my part.)She hemmed a bit and then admitted that she had just dropped out of cosmetology school—her second post-high educational effort.She realized that a career in cosmetology would be a shallow and meaningless pursuit.She wants to make a difference in the world by helping those in a third-world country—she leaves in two months. Millennial's want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world. Click To Tweet

Another acquaintance abandoned her career path as a paralegal and is cranking through grad school—so she can join the Peace Crops—and then aid governments in developing countries.Another 20-something friend is wrapping up a yearlong stint in Russia.Even though he’s not yet back to the States, he is already planning on a return trip as soon as possible.A fourth simply desires to travel the world—to help the people she meets.

I could go on and on about this “younger generation” who are set on making a difference, have forsaken materialism, and seek meaningful work—and it excites me greatly—Gen-Y has the potential to make this world a better place.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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What Does Postmodern Mean?

I was talking with a 20-something friend and tossed out the phrase “postmodern.” His ears perked up and he asked what it meant.

“You’re postmodern,” I spontaneously asserted.

“I know; that’s what people tell me,” he replied, “but what’s it mean?”What Does Postmodern Mean?

“First there is one aspect of postmodernity that doesn’t fit you,” I clarified. “Most postmoderns do not accept absolute truth; to them all things are relative. The only thing they accept with absolute certainty is that there are no absolutes.” (Don’t think about that too long—it will give you a headache!) Postmodern is not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset Click To Tweet

“The rest of the profile seems to match you,” I continued. “In general, postmodern people value relationships and relish experiences—for them, the ‘journey is the reward.’ They want work that is fulfilling and allows them to make a difference in the world, but they guardedly balance work with their personal life. They tend to not be materialistic and money doesn’t mean as much to them as a ‘modern’ person. They are decidedly non-religious, but are quite open to spirituality and metaphysical dialogue.”

He agreed with my assessment that he was postmodern.”And what about you?” he asked.

There is a propensity for younger generations to be postmodern and generations people—like me—to be modern. It’s not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset. Being on the tail end of the baby boom generation, I should be modern, but in reality, “I skew towards postmodern.” He smiled at that; I guess that’s why we get along so well.

If you work with or manage postmodern people (typically generation Y or the Millennials, born after 1984), you will likely be challenged beyond anything you’ve experienced.  Keeping this brief overview in mind, might help you to better understand them. But don’t assume they think and act like you (unless you’re also postmodern) or you’ll never really connect with them.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Dialing for Dollars: Frustrations with Accounts Payable

My least favorite task is making collection calls, but it was again time to do so. Although it took less than an hour, I spent more than a day getting psyched up for this distasteful task. I find that I am quite adept at finding other things to do (which are decidedly more interesting and satisfying) in order to avoid “dialing for dollars.”Dialing for Dollars: Frustrations with Accounts Payable

My perspective is that it is moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Therefore, I shouldn’t be put in a position to have to ask people for the money that they freely and readily agreed to pay me for my services. It's moral and ethical business behavior to pay all bills by their due date, if not sooner. Click To Tweet

I have found that my customers fall into four categories:

  1. Most pay their bills on time, every time. (Thank you!)
  2. Some generally pay on time, but need an occasional reminder or a resent invoice.
  3. A few always need a phone call before they pay. (This could be a result of corporate policy or cash-flow issues.)
  4. A couple can’t or won’t pay what they owe me.

I once worked for a company whose policy was to pay all bills, net forty-five. It wasn’t a cash-flow issue, but a desire to operate off other people’s money. This made it most challenging to engage new vendors and keep existing ones happy; they always wanted to be paid net thirty. Another company I worked for had cash flows issues—sometimes majorly so—and paid almost all bills late, sometimes months late; this was an even more challenging environment.

I have decided to treat my vendors the way I want to be treated: I usually pay bills within twenty-four hours. That requires a bit more cash reserves—and many would call it fiscally foolish—but I call it the right thing to do.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Is It Time For a Vacation?

I’ve been thinking a lot about vacations lately. It’s been years since I’ve taken an annual two-week break from work. This year is no exception. I wonder if this is wise.

I suspect employers began offering vacations to long-term employees as a reward for their service, expecting workers to return from their two-week sojourn rested and ready to work with greater effectiveness. Just as the weekend provides a short break from the workweek, a vacation provides a longer break from the work year. And we do need breaks.

Yet too many employees cram as much activity into their vacation time as possible. They come back exhausted instead of refreshed. They need to return to work to rest from their vacation. This is not as it should be. For these folks, their work prior to their vacation is wasted in anticipation, and their work after vacation is equally unproductive because they’re too tired to do much.

Then there are people like me. At most of my jobs, no one did my work while I was gone. I’d spend the week before vacation, trying hard to work ahead. Then, afterwards, it would take a couple weeks to catch up. For all the good my vacation did – and I actually rested on my vacations – the backlog of work when I returned quickly negated its benefits.

For the past fifteen years, a two-week vacation has been out of the question: the overlapping production schedules of multiple publications leaves me no time to take a long break. Instead, I’ve opted for shorter respites, an occasional long weekend, a day trip here and there, even time off during the day for a quick outing.

It’s a rhythm that works for me, but all the while I wonder what I might be missing by not taking a two-week vacation.

When was your last vacation? What did you do?

Is Gamification a Trend or a Fad?

I was quite skeptical about “gamification,” the use of game concepts to motivate desirable behavior among customers (or employees).

I reasoned that while expecting customers to “play games” might result in a short-term increase in brand involvement or purchases, I doubted if it was sustainable. However, I am rethinking my knee-jerk assessment.

As a Netflix customer, I was likely involved in a basic gamification effort. As I posted movie reviews on their site, I was given a “reviewer rank.” As I posted more reviews, my rank would improve. At one point I had worked my way to the neighborhood of 5,000 out of several million reviewers. Bettering my reviewer rank became a game for me. Yes, I enjoyed watching the movies and, yes, I found it rewarding to share my input with other Netflix customers, but the validation of my efforts came through watching my reviewer rank improve.

However, if it was a “game,” the problem was I didn’t know the rules. I assumed more reviews was good, more readers of my reviews was beneficial, and more people flagging my reviews as “helpful” in comparison to “not helpful” was also a factor. But this could not be verified, as everything I did was competing with what others did. So I could do something to improve my reviewer rank, but if others did even more to improve theirs, my rank would actually decrease.

I reviewed 71 movies and then abruptly stopped when I realized I no longer enjoyed doing so.

It seems gamification may work after all — at least for a while.

There Has to be a Better Way

I don’t know if I wasn’t listening or am slow to catch on, but it wasn’t until later in life that I realized how to land a job:

  • The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview,
  • the purpose of an interview is sell yourself well enough to receive an offer, and
  • the purpose of an offer is to negotiate a compensation package for your new job.

Silly me. I thought that people should just hire me because I could do the work — and would do it well. (I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t believe that.) I viewed the application/resume and interview steps as unnecessary irritations in the process. As far as compensation negotiations, just skip that part and pay me what I am worth.

The sad reality is that — except for a few positions, such as sales or marketing — being able to pen a compelling resume or conduct a convincing interview is no measure of one’s ability to actually do a job, merely their ability to obtain a job. The result is that unsuited people are hired and — I fear — good people are overlooked. There has to be a better way.

The same is true in politics. You need to be able to raise money to campaign and you need to be able to debate well to raise your poll numbers and you need to speak with conviction to create interest among the electorate. But these skills have little bearing on your ability to lead well.

Whether it is obtaining a job or being elected, the conventional processes do not allow the best person to prevail. There has to be a better way.

Partner or Employee?

Last month, after much planning and consideration, my bride joined me in my publishing business. Her long commute to her prior job was becoming wearisome and with winter approaching, bad weather would make it even longer and more of a worry.

As we shared this possibility with others, the idea was met with raised eyebrows and skepticism. One doubtful friend directly stated, “Married people should not work together.” A wise friend, however, advised that we consider whether Candy would be my employee or my partner. That was a great question and we opted for partner.

We even did a trial run this spring when she had some vacation time to use up. The test went quite well, so we moved forward with our plans. Now, six weeks into it, we are pleased with the results. It was a good move and I wish we had done it sooner.

The only occasional hiccup is that sometimes she acts like an employee and sometimes I view her as one. Still we are steadily moving towards the goal of becoming business partners and I suspect as she more fully understands the business, that goal will be realized.