Sometimes the only effective way to get a particular task done is to work on it in exclusion of all others. At my office – which, granted, is in my house – there are many many distractions, or indeed, things I’d rather be doing and/or reading.
There are rare occasions, though, when I have to engage in the social contract in a different manner: I leave my house, for example, to get some work done on my car.
Typically I go to the dealership from whence my car came. There is a nice waiting room there, complete with a large fish tank and boxes of reasonably decent free donuts from a local bakery. The room is only sullied by multiple televisions blaring CNN.
I don’t care about any of that. I look forward to sitting there, heads down, and getting some real work done sans the things that normally distract me.
So, I pull in there, and they tell me, with grave seriousness, that they are really busy, and it’ll probably be at least a couple of hours before they are able to finish the work. I suppose that their demeanor is due to people not reacting too kindly to being told that.
After all, in this era of the “ME” generation, people sometimes have a higher self importance than they should in such a situation, and probably blurt nonsense like, “But the shoe sale at the Mall ends in 45 minutes!” or “If I’m not back at the office in an hour..” blah blah blah
Unexpectedly, I exclaim, “Great! I’ll just go sit and wait!” Their minds are probably too busy deciding whether I’m being passive-aggressive or merely sarcastic, and thus don’t quite detect how pleased I actually am.
I’m thinking, “Okay, now I have TWO HOURS to actually get some work done!”
I sit down and start digging into some task. Research has shown that it takes around twenty minutes to regain focus and concentration on a topic, and maybe another ten minutes to start doing useful thinking in it. The goal is to tear the thing apart, do whatever the task entails, and put everything back together again before they call my name: a nice, pat unit of work.
But what always happens? They come in after forty lousy minutes and happily tell me, “Okay, Nicholas” – blech! – “you’re all set!”
Liars. I know their game. Most people, when they are told something will take two hours, and it actually only takes forty minutes, think “Wow! This place has awesome customer service!”
Not me. Now I have to go home and spend more time trying to remember where in the hell I left off.