Tag Archives: work

Returning to work

Back to work this week. The theory* goes that the return to work will be as miserable as your holiday was good. My return to work on Wednesday was brutal. 

I couldn’t believe my glorious beach side holiday was over. I couldn’t accept that the first half of 2013 is already happening. It’s going to be peddle to the metal until the end of May this year. I guess I’m reluctant to get in the driver’s seat and turn the key.

Easing in is always best, so today I’m working from ‘home’ (not my regular home, my spiritual home by the beach).

Instead of waking up too early (before 7am is undignified. Heck, before 8am is undignified), putting on uncomfortable work clothes and trekking to the other side of the city to sit in an office (with broken air conditioning on a 40+ degree day), I started the day with breakfast and a book.


I think it might be time to reread Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow and Eva Hoffman’s Time again. Both books speak to my longing for a less scheduled life. Going back to work felt as abnormal and unnatural as doing nothing for entire days felt normal and natural.

Maybe I can find a middle ground for these next few busy months? I’ll let you know how I go.

*I made the theory up but it stands proven in this case.


What a nice way to start the day

You know what I love? I love when you walk to work in the morning and the sun’s up but it’s still early enough that the air is crisp and there is dew on the grass. The birds are hopping around on the nature strip eating things from the grass that haven’t been discovered by other birds yet. You put in your headphones and the first song up on shuffle is something great like a Billy Bragg and Wilco song, but one sung by Jeff Tweedy from Wilco because even though every song on those Mermaid Ave albums are good, the ones sung by Jeff Tweedy are your favourites.

When you get to the intersection you get a green man straight away and don’t even have to alter your stride. You cop a mouthful of exhaust from a truck and it reminds you walking along the road above the Tiber in Rome. You smile about that particularly excellent holiday in Rome and think about how nice life has been so far.

Then you notice the first magnolias of the season hanging over the wrought iron fences of the period terraces in your street that is actually called a parade. You parade further down the parade, cross the road at the lights, dodge cyclists, and walk past the main entrance to work. You walk a bit further up the parade and enter work via a more attractive entrance and marvel that Melbourne is the perfect blend of city and town. Along the side of the road there are bunches of jonquils growing freely like wild flowers and nobody picks them, or rides over them or stomps on them. Which is lucky because you can go to any nearby florist and pay ten dollars for a bunch not quite as nice as these ones growing freely and plentifully on the side of the road. You walk past some of Melbourne’s most beautiful buildings on the way to your office which is cosy and warm with a lovely view of all that you’ve just wandered past.

You sit down to start work and think, what a nice way to start the day.

Can one book change everything?

I while ago I stumbled upon a book in discount store.

The Artist in the Office

It’s short, simple, nothing in this book totally blew my mind (i.e. the ideas were commonsense). It cost me five bucks.

And yet, it changed EVERYTHING.

The author, Summer Pierre, perfectly articulated the desire to leave the routine of 9 to 5 office life and get on with the good stuff.

And then she perfectly articulated why you should keep your office job.

This is the back and forth I have with my walking buddy who is also a writer who also goes to work full-time. We know work is good in so many ways.

* Don’t have to stress about where the money is coming from (especially good for people who hate thinking about money).

* Have a regular routine that keeps you on the straight and narrow.

* Keeps you connected to the humans – no fear of becoming isolated and out of touch with the world.

The best solution we come back to again and again is the part-time solution. I don’t want to completely disconnect from formal work, but I don’t want my office job to be my whole life.

Summer Pierre agrees that my office job doesn’t have to be my whole life! She shows a way that a regular job is a sweet part of the artist’s deal – something to work with instead of something to work against.

Here’s the weird bit – I’ve never, ever, not once in my whole life, every thought of myself as an artist. And yet, this book resonated so strongly (I think it was the pictures) that I wonder whether this might just be the framework for me. An instruction manual for structured play for grown ups maybe.

So thank you very much Summer Pierre, your short book might have changed everything.

The myth of the high-achiever

Just skim-read an interesting article over at Huffington Post, “The Dark Side of Girls’ Success In School.”

It talks about the idea that the skills that helped you thrive in school might not be the same skills that will help you thrive in your career.

I won’t suggest that people who are high-achievers in school can’t be high-achievers at work (obviously) – but I think sometimes the very fact that you didn’t do well in school can be your greatest advantage at work.

This idea conjures images of the restless high school drop out who becomes a multi-billionaire entrepreneur. But there are also tonnes of less-extreme examples. The student whose work always needed correcting becomes the worker who can handle honest feedback. The student who doesn’t worry too much about exams (i.e. doesn’t study) becomes the worker who doesn’t freak out when something goes wrong with a project. The student who talked back to teachers is able to speak frankly to those with authority.

So if performing well in school isn’t a very good indicator of your potential to perform well in your career, how do we make sure that those who might come out of school without the necessary metrics to indicate that they have talent get the development opportunities the A+ students are getting?

I work at a university that has high entrance scores. Even here in a bastion of high-test scores, no one is going to argue that there aren’t great people who are overlooked by this system. But for a whole range of reasons, universities are probably going to keep measuring student’s worthiness to attend by looking at their grades.

How can we be sure that all that bubbling potential isn’t lost? I think often it’s taken care of when these students enter the work force and start to excel. The bosses like what they do, and they get rewarded, climb the ladder, before you know it, have forgotten they were ever getting Cs in English.

But is that enough? Is there more we can do to see talent and develop it?

Working from “home”

I’m in my first week of “working from home.” It should have been my second week, but week one was so wildly unsuccessful that for the few moments that I was actually at home I barely turned on my computer.

In addition to struggling with the “working” component of the “working from home” concept, I haven’t really figured out the “home” component either, as I don’t actually have one. I have a nice spare room in Beck’s house where I sleep and keep my clothes, and I perch my laptop on the kitchen bench and call it an office. Once I have more permanent digs I’ll set myself up with a desk and maybe even an ergonomic chair.

For someone who has never worked from home, and didn’t necessarily covet it as my dream work situation (I quite like having an office and people to have lunch with), I know an awful lot about the challenges one may face. See, the organisational/lifehack blogging community, of which I am a dedicated follower, tends also to be a work-from-home/freelance/entrepreneuring community too.

So when I woke up yesterday and decided to delay getting dressed (until…ummm…5pm), I considered the debate about getting dressed before starting work to clearly dileaniate the beginning of a work day. When I kept working until 9pm the other night because I’d faffed around during the day, that rang a bell too.

But in amongst all of these grey areas, I know one thing for sure about working from home – It’s AWESOME! I mean, I already mentioned the perk about not having to get dressed, but did you know that if I do choose to get dressed, I can wear tracksuit pants and sneakers! And when it’s time for lunch I have the whole fridge to choose from and….helloooo daytime TV!

I’ll probably be ready to get back into a more, ummm, dynamic work environment eventually, but for now I couldn’t imagine a better way to get paid.