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BOFH: How long does it take to complete Friday's lager-related tasks?

'I bloody hate time management applications'

Episode 17 "And so then when you've done your part of the task you simply change your task icon to the 'completed' state, click update, then activate the next task in the project chain, which will send an alert to the next team member that they have a task to complete for the project," the instructor burbles happily.

"What if I'm doing two tasks which are one after the other?" the PFY asks.

"Then when you complete the first and activate the second you'll get an alert to say that you have a new task," she says.

"What if I don't want to get an alert?"

"I suppose you could combine tasks at the project creation phase. So instead of creating two tasks you could create a single task with two activities."

I bloody hate time management applications. In fact, I hate any application where the application demands more of your time than the task actually takes. I generally treat these things as a form of tax that I have to pay to complete a task – but when the tax cost exceeds the task cost my mind tends to drift to tax avoidance mode.

"So what's to stop us having five weekly tasks named 'Do Monday's work', 'Do Tuesday's work', etc?" I ask.

"Well you COULD do that – but then you'd lose granularity on your projects. You wouldn't be able to drill down into a project to individual tasks to find the amount of time you're spending on, say, compressing data files to be sent to a vendor," she replies.

"Or doing pointless time-management tasks," the PFY adds.

"You may not believe this, but it may make your job easier if senior management realise how much of your Friday afternoon is wasted attacking run-of-the-mill user problems."

Our senior management, on the other hand, might be surprised to find how much of a Friday afternoon is wasted attacking several pints of lager.

"And you don't think that this will effectively double the time it takes to do something?" the PFY asks.

"IN THE BEGINNING," she admits grudgingly, "there IS a learning curve as you come to grips with the software, but once you're past that it becomes as simple as if you were just writing something down on a notepad."

"But we don't write anything down on notepads," the PFY counters.

"Really – so how do you keep track of your time?" she asks. "I was told that you've already broken down workflows so that you can report on them in 12-minute intervals?"

"Ah! That," I say. "Yes, we don't want to interrupt a workflow as such, so we ... uh ... combine our workflow reporting into a clearly defined period."

"You mean, like hourly?" says the instructor.

"Uh..," the PFY mumbles.

"DAILY?" she gasps.



"Yes, weekly. Let's say weekly," I mumble quickly.

"How on earth do you remember the time increments at the end of a week?"

"Uuuhmmm," the PFY starts.

"Can I be honest with you Mary?" the PFY asks.

"My name's Sonia."

"Course it is. Anyway Mary, I'm sure that you're aware of the Nun Study of the School Sisters of Notre Dame?"

"Uh, no?"

"Well among the findings of this study was that those autobiographical essays which lacked linguistic density and/or creativity were a significant indicator of the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease," the PFY says, in an almost academic-like manner.

"I don't know where you're going with this," Mary responds.

"Well, in an effort to protect my supervisor and myself from being at risk of Alzheimer's we have embraced the holistic approach of creativity in our reporting methods."

"You mean ... you lie," says Mary, quite unkindly in my opinion.

"Creating a non-toxic work environment," he snaps back.

"And," I add, "because we are busy people and application developers, we created a program to be creative for us."

"Monthly," the PFY admits.

"So ... why did you even bother calling me in?" Mary asks.

"We didn't call you in," I respond.

"Someone did! I was told that your company was in desperate need of job tracking."

"Oh, that'll be the boss or our director."

"Oh yes. It was both I think. I met them a couple of weeks ago – they signed a two-year contract – but they assured me that it was you who'd asked for it?"

"No," the PFY says kindly, "but I guess we don't want you to think you've wasted your time – I mean you have, but we don't want you to think that."

"It's a contract, it's been paid for," Mary reminds us sternly.

"Yes, yes, but how about we just run through this one more time with a real world example. If it will REALLY help us ACTUALLY reduce workload or manage projects more effectively we MIGHT give it a crack. But no promises ..."

... 15 minutes later ...

"Oh!" The PFY says, just as I re-enter Mission Control, "I've just got a task notification to 'Bring the Van to the basement lift doors'."

"Yes," Mary says, "because Simon has just closed off his task of 'Delivering the roll of carpet to the freight elevator' after YOU had just closed off the job of ... uh ... 'Cleaning the boss's office with bleach'."

"And if I'm right," I say, "this thing should also automatically send an email to the bloke at the refuse disposal station saying that we have a roll of 'asbestos-laden carpeting' which needs a good, high temperature burning – for about three hours."

"Yes, right," Mary says dubiously. "But do you see how this software can save you time in practical execution of tasks?"

"I'm not too sure. Can we just run through the whole thing one more time?" I ask, picking up the phone and punching in the director's number ...

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