Most of what we do at work – is not work.
Everyone knows that.
We surf the web. We chat in the hall. We attend endless unproductive meetings. So most of our time is spent doing things other than what we are paid to do.
Which means that an honest project estimate must accurately reflect time spent goofing off.
So before I retired, I handed my boss an honest project estimate.
He studied it – then shook his head. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said, “You claim it will take 500 hours to complete – but a year to do?”
“That’s right,” I told him.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
I explained it to him.
“Could you really do it in three months?”
“Not here,” I said.
“I’ll do it at home.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said, “but I am willing to let you try.”
So the next day, I woke up before the sun and commuted downstairs to my office where I basked in the digital glow of my computer monitor until after the sun set and accomplished more in one day than I usually get done in a week.
The next day, the same thing.
It was glorious.
By the following week, the woman who assigns me chores began to assign me chores.
“Since you are home all day,” my wife said, “how about doing some laundry?”
So I did some laundry.
“And how about picking up a bit?”
So I picked up a bit.
“And please clean the cat box.”
“And when you fill the dishwasher – don’t forget to turn it on…”
I saw no problem with any of these chores. I did the laundry and I picked up a bit. I cleaned the cat box and when I filled the dishwasher, I didn’t forget to turn it on. Still, I got more done in a single day at home than I did in a week at work.
I finished the core of my project within two months (a full ten months ahead of my honest estimate). The result was an elegant, robust, extensible system that effectively and efficiently handled every business and technical requirement.
Then came the phase of my project that I don’t like so much: documenting what I did.
Don’t get me wrong, I love writing – but as anyone who has followed my blog knows – I hate being constrained by pesky details of reality.
It’s when I discovered a remarkable passion for picking up and cleaning the cat box – and loading the dishwasher ( even turning it on). Still I accomplished more in half a week at home than I did in a week at work.
About that time, my wife left to attend a week long conference.
“Gosh,” I told myself, “now I am really going to get stuff done.”
And all was going well until – THE INCIDENT.
It started innocently enough.
Finding the cupboard short a can of tuna, I drove to the supermarket.
Moments later, I snatched a can from the shelf and headed for the check-out counter where I looked forward to a little small talk and innocent flirting with the cashier.
As I approached the counter, she startled and raised a hand in alarm. When I asked what the problem was, she just scurried away. This concerned me greatly, so I quickly completed a self-survey to verify I was appropriately attired, groomed, zipped and buttoned.
There was nothing out of sorts.
The grocery manager came over and stood in for the clerk. He checked and bagged my single can of tuna then asked, “Are you okay?”
“Why?” I asked in reply.
That is when the realization stuck me – I had gone stir-crazy and the grocery store had become my sole point of human contact. This was my fourth trip of the day and it was creeping out the staff.
Mortified, I fled back to work.
But the thing is… now that I am retired – I am not the least bit bored, nor do I go stir-crazy. Maybe it is that since no one is paying me to do anything – I can do anything I want and nothing needs to be documented.