Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just Do It

I was recently reading Joel Spolsky’s column in Inc. on management and I thought it was an interesting story. In general you want to be efficient with your time. You don’t want to waste it doing things that someone else could do better and possibly cheaper. Time management is a skill that you need to do well to succeed.

If you don’t want to succeed and just work for someone, that’s fine too, but time management can still help you.

In any case, I think it’s a balance that you have to find. Recently I asked to have someone else take over some of my duties on a part-time basis, mainly to give me more time for other things. I wasn’t sure how well this would go over with the boss since I’d been doing things fine and I was essentially asking for someone else to make my job easier. But I had a few arguments:

  • Someone else needs to know how to do this, since the proverbial bus could strike me down at any time.
  • I’m fairly expensive, and this isn’t really a good use of my time.
  • I could take on other tasks.

I wasn’t exactly emphasizing the last item since I’m fairly busy, but I don’t mind taking on other tasks periodically. Mostly I was hoping to get more vacation in (I’ve never taken my allotment) and get ahead more on my writing.

In any case, I did get someone that helps out, but I still try to go and handle some of those duties, primarily processing email to the webmaster, on a regular basis. It helps me to keep in touch with my customers, but also to show that I’m not above performing duties.

I have a story similar to Joel’s, but with the opposite effect. I was working in an office early in my career, in a small company, and we had a break room. In it was the large printer that was shared by everyone in the office. One day I walked in right behind the President of the company and we were waiting for things to print. His job was ahead of mine, but stopped in the middle as the printer was out of paper, but I didn’t know that.

He asked if I would add more paper, I did, and the printer started back up, printed his job and then mine. Now I didn’t mind loading paper in there, and I might have felt differently if he had gone to get a cup of coffee or talk to someone while I took a couple minutes to locate paper and load the printer. Instead he stood there and watched me.

My impressions of him took a further turn for the worse when I witnessed him doing the same thing to someone else at the coffee pot, asking them to make him more coffee while he stood there. Needless to say I didn’t stay there very long.

I’ve always pitched in when needed. I’ve had CTOs help pull cable and make patch cables with me, and I’ve been happy to handle permissions issues as the senior DBA when I made probably twice what others in the office did.

It’s not always about efficiency. Sometimes it’s about showing that you’re a leader and willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. And you’re no better than the others in the company.

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