Tag Archives: work

I now know why my desk chair spins…

So I can chase my tail with less expenditure of energy…

I sometimes feel like I run in circles with a lot of energy going into constant activity with relatively little to show when I get to the end of the day. It really makes me question my efficacy and efficiency.  There are days when I feel like I’m one of those performers with plates spinning on the rods… running back and forth to give each one a push and spin to keep them going. What would happen if I stopped… would they all come crashing down? Shattered plates all over, right? That’s pretty much what it feels like. It’s deceptive, too, because I’m pretty sure that if I did just take a breath, take a break, and slow it down, everything would likely just keep on ticking along.

On any given week, my work calendar looks a bit like I lost a game of Tetris. (Oh yeah… that’s what the annoying music is…). Just opening my calendar program is enough to raise the blood pressure, and that is truly a bit excessive and possibly unnecessary. I recently received a request from my superiors to share my meeting calendar with full details (It was sent to all of my colleagues actually; I wasn’t singled out or anything). My first response was, “Um… why?” with a side of “Big Brother, is that you?” However, when I did step back and reread the email, I realized that perhaps it was more along the lines of leadership wanting to make sure that we aren’t being obligated to meetings that are truly just redundant or in which my participation is not necessary. There isn’t anything private or confidential on there. The only things on that calendar are meetings that have been set by said leadership. It still felt a little intrusive, I have to admit, but that was just my own knee-jerk response. I’m working on it. No one was asking to monitor my every moment. I need to let that go. Letting my boss see my calendar might mean less double and triple booking issues (which happens to me quite a lot during the day).

Recently I broke my own record by being in two conference calls at the same time with four different Webex instances, 17 instant message windows and all while trying to respond to multiple emails that continued to come into my inbox every moment. My spouse coming in the office to ask if I needed some coffee was apparently just too much, and I didn’t even hear him ask. (He’s gotten used to this over the years, and so thankfully did not take it personally.) But in truth, it was all too much. How much quality attention could I possibly be given to any of these instances with that much over extension of my various senses. It. Was. Too. Much. And I’d done it to myself, or at least allowed it.

We all do it these days. The world moves at a very fast pace. In fact, if I am very honest with myself and anyone reading, I feel anxious and antsy when I am not moving at warp speed trying to get everything done. It is sad that I cannot seem to appreciate what has been termed “down time.” I’ve lost the knack of relaxing. Maybe some of you have as well…

Even when I feel like I am coping well with my busy life, I have to take a step back and really listen to my tone of voice, my interactions with my own employees, my family, my friends, my clients… When I’m over extended my voice gets clipped. My tone gets a bit sharp, and I find myself angry when the situation really doesn’t warrant it. So, when that time comes, I need to remember that my chair spins away from the desk, and taking a break will not result in shattered plates everywhere. It’s ok for me to take my leadership’s offer to take care of me. It won’t kill me to let go and say no occasionally. It’s a work in progress, but at least my chair spins and my coffee is full.



The year that sped… Mental Fatigue

This morning I got up… per my usual… at the usual time. It was dark out. Just last week, it wasn’t dark… was it? I could swear it was at least the faint, gray pre-dawn thing. But today… nope. Dark. Like night. Which pretty much reminded me that I meant to get so much done this summer… and didn’t.

What happens to me and my time that I fail to accomplish the goals and tasks that needed to be accomplished? And what about the things that I wanted (rather than needed) to do?

So here I am… about 2 weeks more before I am squarely in the fourth quarter of 2018 and I find that there are many things that I meant to get to… and didn’t. Many pounds I meant to shed… and… nope… those are still firmly where they were (and I think they brought friends to stay with them). The panic sets in, and not just a small modicum of guilt. Did I waste all my time? Did I procrastinate necessary chores in favor of vegetating like a lump while my brain oozed from my ears binging a series on Netflix? Am I a terrible slackard for not getting all my to-do tah-done? It’s enough to discourage, dishearten, and generally depress… BUT, I honestly just don’t have time for that right now.

Mental exhaustion is a thing. People don’t always acknowledge this. If you go out and put in 8-12 hours of manual, sweaty labor for yourself or someone else, pretty much all parties will agree that your right to exhaustion is guaranteed. “You, my friend, have put in a hard day’s labor, and the laborer is deserving of succor and rest…” Ok, seriously, if you have friends that speak like this without actually being at a Renfaire… that is awesome! The point is that while physical labor and activity are definitely not extinct in our world, it isn’t quite the common thread that it was. In days gone by the majority of the population did have manual labor as a part of their daily lives, but most people today have occupations and avocations that are less physical and more cerebral… even if menial or tedious.

We still tend to give more credence to physical cause for tiredness than mental challenges or efforts. And that just isn’t a fair assessment at all. I get patients, employees, friends, family…  saying “I don’t know why I’m so tired… I haven’t done anything,” only to follow that up with folks telling me that they have been learning a whole new process at work or have been writing a paper that will change the way we think about biometrics and human interaction with technology on a molecular level. I even catch my own inner voice chastising my lassitude when all I’ve seemingly done all day is sit at a desk in meetings.

HEY PEOPLE!!! That is work. Your brain requires energy to power it, and when it has been put to use trying to absorb new information or synthesize an innovation, it is using that energy. The result? We. Get. Tired. And now I have shades of Mel Brooks with Madeline Kahn running around in my head… probably using more of that energy.

Our brains use up a ton of energy (and Calories) every day just to keep us breathing, digesting, moving around… passive stuff that we don’t even consciously acknowledge. When we then add to it the need to process additional data and input, it is work. While it may be using the “muscle” between your ears instead of the ones attached to long bones throughout your skeleton, it is still potentially exhausting.

I guess the bottom line, upshot, in conclusion, and all that jazz that I wish to impart to anyone still reading is that brain work is still work, and your body and mind require recovery just as much as for physical effort. And for those of us that maybe didn’t get everything accomplished that we set out to do at the beginning of the summer or year, it’s ok. Set small steps, give yourself credit for the things you did do, and even small victories deserve a celebration. Take care of yourselves.

The Ongoing Struggle of a Type A Woman in a Type B World…


It’s been a while since I’ve posted… in truth, it has been an age since I have felt I have the time to write. Isn’t that a shame, too. I know you all are waiting on the edge of your seat for me to say something profound.

That’s a joke… in case you were wondering.

The sad fact is that I have been too busy, or possibly too distracted to write anything on one hand. On the other hand, I’ve been terribly worried that anything and everything that might flight off my fingertips would be in the nature of a horribly alienating rant of biblical proportions or so very “emo” that it would set up depression in the heart of a reader that Prozac couldn’t fix (No, I actually do not think Prozac “fixes” anything, but you know what I mean).

Just to let you in on a secret… that maybe isn’t quite so very secret… I’m a Type A personality. Shocking! I know. Try as I have to fight the label and the traits, it seems I am doomed to always fall under the category. I don’t like it. I really don’t. I get very offended when people tell me that I am such a thing, or at least I used to get offended. I still feel a twinge if someone refers to me in those terms. It isn’t so much that being a Type A person is so very, very bad. At least, I don’t think it is so very, very bad. Oh, lord, I hope it isn’t so very, very bad… and off the tracks I go, giving you an excellent example of why I haven’t been able to bring myself to type anything lately. As a Type A personality, I do tend to overanalyze and rethink and second guess and re-analyze a bit.

Once upon a time, there were really only two types of personality in this particular classification. There were the Type A’s, who were the task-oriented, goal-oriented, pushy, bossy, busy… you get the idea. There were the Type B’s who were laid-back, go-with-the-flow, roll-with-the-punches, experience life, enjoy the right… yeah, hippies. Ok, so, not really hippies, but again, you get the idea. The point to all of it was that a lot of people with letters after their names (I can get away with saying this without being terribly derogatory because I have a couple or three of those letters myself… they totally do not give me any discounts when buying coffee or pop) ran some statistical tests that indicated that Type A people were more likely to have cardiovascular health issues than Type B people. It is pretty intuitive actually. Picture that Type A who wants everything in order and it its place and getting blood pressure increases because they are going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances like traffic or a Type B person having a friendly conversation at the checkout counter of the local convenience store while waiting to purchase coffee. Yeah… like that’s never happened to me, right? Anyhow, the idea was that Mr. (or Ms. I don’t want to appear to be sexist… though there was a point in time where it was shown that males were more likely to be Type A than women… but I digress again) Type A tends to sweat the small stuff lending to higher stress levels and putting more of the strain on his/her cardiovascular system. Type B persons would tend to be less tied to time schedules and wouldn’t get torqued if the person in the 15 items or less line had 23 and couldn’t find their wallet once they were rung up on the till.

And so it goes… Type A personalities were felt to be less healthy because of that sweating-the-smalls thing, and Type B got the rep for being so laid-back that they never really got anything done since they don’t set much store by accomplishment. NONE OF THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE. It stands to reason there are traits and similarities, but people are individuals. Most of these personality things are a continuum, not a light switch that is ON or OFF. Which leads to the next evolution… and more types. Since society could not be satisfied with two types that might have varying degrees of how they fit, a couple more were identified. Type C’s are like Type A’s in being detail-oriented, logical, focused on goals and tasks, but seemingly with less of the heart attack in the wings situation of getting completely bent over the small stuff. In fact, they sway more towards not rocking the boat and leaving the big decisions to other people. They are way less concerned over the big pictures or ultimate goals than the details. They would rather examine the puzzle and put together the pieces than actually finish the whole 5000-piece-high-difficulty monstrosity and gaze upon the finished result with a sense of accomplishment. They seem to be a combination of Type A and Type Be personality, but they can get bogged down into the details to the extent they never finish the job. Type D’s are what someone at some point categorized as “distressed”; thus, D… for distressed… get it? These are pessimists with an external locus of control who believe that everything happens TO them and cannot be impacted BY them taking action. This is obviously the extreme of the type, but Type D’s are susceptible to depression, as you might well imagine.

Why am I even discussing this? Well, it has occurred to me that the most difficult part of being a Type A is that we can control our own behavior and very little else on this planet. That makes it a bit like torture when we are trapped in situations where our drive, focus, and task-orientation doesn’t do squat: In other words, when we have to wait and nothing we can do will change it.

I am the world’s worst Type A in situations where nothing I can do will impact it. It could, possibly, turn this Type A into a Type D if allowed to spiral out of control. I am first, and foremost, a control-freak… which is a common trait of the Type A’s of the world. I make lists. I cross things off. I make plans. I have back up plans. I have back up plans to back up my back up plans. I have not only plan B but plans C through Q, typically. It is how I try to avoid being taken aback by contingencies that I didn’t expect. I literally try to expect the unexpected… BUT the world doesn’t quite work like that. Especially my world, it seems. Whether I like it or not, I work and live in environments chockablock with Type B’s and C’s and D’s who aren’t nearly as concerned or involved in planning and acting as I am myself. Additionally, the laws of physics and nature have yet to obey my commands, and that is highly unlikely to change in future… but I do continue to try.

For the most part, I have developed my own coping mechanisms for living in the less than pressed world full of beings that do not realize that being five minutes late will cause me agony the likes of which no one without Type A personality will understand. To me, it is about consideration and valuing the time and efforts of others, but I have, after many, many years grown to understand that not everyone has this sense of concern nor do they possess a desire to control their environment and outcomes to that extent. For me, having a list of tasks that is due by a certain time will prompt me to start getting said tasks done as quickly as possible so that if any snag happens to present, I have time to sort it. This usually results in me handing over all the necessary work and elements far ahead of the deadline and waiting… and waiting… and waiting for some bureaucratic process in the ether and Bureau of They to be presided over by a Type B person who believes everything will just fall together… or it won’t, and that won’t end the world… Type C who is more concerned about their data or details than my project… or some Type D procrastinator who might feel that it isn’t worth hurrying because they will just screw it up anyway.

My father had a great way of dealing with his Type A daughter. When I worked myself into a tizzy of frustration due to the Type B world I could not force to my will, he would calmly ask, “Can you do anything about it?” That was all. The first time he asked, I was almost offended (Well… as offended as a 7-year-old worrying about anything could be). He followed up with, “If you can do something about it, do it.” That floored me. I hadn’t really thought about examining the situation to see if there was a further action on my own part. Quickly, I assessed and decided I had fulfilled every possible part of my own requirements and any action I could take in this situation. Dad watched me and gauged precisely when I had taken appropriate inventory and again spoke, “If there is no action you can do to impact the situation, then there is nothing to worry about.” Just like that… at the delicate age of 7 years, I had heard the mysteries of the universe: If there is something I can do, I should do that instead of wasting energy worrying, and if there is nothing I can do, worrying is just a waste of energy that could be applied to some other task. Holy @#$%! Lightbulbs and lightning bolts and all sorts of astounding claps of thunder should have accompanied this epiphany. As it was, I think my father returned to reading his book (oblivious to the earthshattering revelations he had imparted upon his female offspring), and I went about my business of winding myself up into a tizzy again only to repeat my father’s words to myself.

It still isn’t automatic, even after a good many years between the first time I heard the wisdom and today. I still get frustrated with the inability to bend the world, time, the universe… and mostly other people… to my will. I grind my teeth (as evidenced by the new crown on a back molar where I broke it… *tsk…tsk*) and put my phone on mute while I vent profanities. I push and shove and try to make outcomes fall into the place where I want them, and the rest of the world continues blithely along without one bit of care that they are messing with my plans. And so it goes… I live my life as a Type A person in a Type B world. So, I stop sometimes, and I go for a run. I take a moment to reset. I stop the continual circle of rumination and pointless activity and take time to ask myself again, “Can you do anything about it?”

If any reader might like to find out whether you are Type A or Type B, Psychology Today has a test that takes about 15-20 minutes: http://psychologytoday.psychtests.com/cgi-bin/tests/transfer_ap.cgi