Eliminate little hassles for job satisfaction

I started a new job last September and it’s the happiest and most satisfied I’ve been at work for a long, long time. I’m doing something I know how to do very well, something I’m good at (if I may be immodest for a moment) and something I simply enjoy. Aside from all of that, a huge factor in my current job satisfaction is management of the little hassles.

It’s common to downplay the day-to-day hassles when there are “bigger fish to fry,” but in my experience, these daily hassles can have a huge impact on overall satisfaction. I like to set aside time to tackle them all at once, for two reasons.

The first is time and energy available. Most of these little irritations or minor administrative tasks can be completed with a minimal effort or time commitment. Therefore, I save them for the end of the day when I lack the focus or energy for heftier work. Also, buy “chunking” these issues, I get to experience the rewarding satisfaction of fixing them over and over. It’s an easy win for boosting satisfaction.

Try to identify the minor hassles in your day-to-day, as well as a block of time that’s dedicated to addressing them. You’ll find it’s a very rewarding practice.

Tales of a summer custodian: waxing floors with Cpt. Kirk

tosc_02

This post is the first in a series that explores my summer working as a temporary school custodian. Enjoy.

“Oh you’ve got to be freaking kidding me.” When alarm sounded at 5:00 AM last Tuesday, I was not happy. “Maybe unemployment isn’t that bad.”

The bank disagrees, so I hauled myself out of bed, ate a yogurt, got into the car and started the commute to my new gig.

beakerThis week was my first working as a temporary school custodian. After performing more manual labor than this doughy writer has seen in a very long time, I can now strip a floor, wax a floor and paint stairs (work DOWN, now up). I’ve discovered that enamel-based paint simply does not come out, and that every science teacher in America eventually makes the Beaker joke.

I also know that you can play Black Sabbath through a SMART Board.

Additionally, there’s real satisfaction at the end of a day of hard work:

  1. Unpainted stairs become painted stairs.
  2. Unpainted railings become painted railings.
  3. Unwaxed floors are smooth, shiny and beautiful.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived on Tuesday at 6:30 AM and made my way to “the shop” at the edge of campus. The boss man was actually on vacation last week, so Number One (let’s call him “Riker”) was issuing assignments. On this day I’d be stripping and waxing floors.

After doing my time card wrong (I put my arrival time on Monday, not Tuesday, and in the PM slot), Riker and I made our way to the first building for “stripping and waxing.”

It’s not as sexy as it sounds.

The halls were full of the furniture that used to occupy the classrooms, so we could get right to it. Stripping is pretty easy:

  1. Connect iPhone to SMART Board, play Black Sabbath.
  2. Mix chemicals that will likely be responsible for the third arm my body will grow in a few years.
  3. Spread the water/chemical mix across the floor with the “stripper.”
  4. Feel disappointed that the stripper is not a coed working her way through nursing school.
  5. Follow the stripper with the shop-vac, which is a massive thing with a cylindrical body and a long squeege attachment to suck up the water and chemicals.
  6. Quietly name the shop-vac “R2.”
  7. Say “Come along, R2” in your head as you suck up the water.

kirkOnce the floor is dry, things get meditative. First, pour a line of wax on the floor. Then, slowly spread a thin layer, walking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

The last step is this: get all Zen with the wax.

First, you worry about doing it wrong. Then you try to line up your efforts perfectly with the edges of the tile. Last, get really, really into spreading the wax.

Like, really into it.

You begin to recognize just how far a puddle of wax can be stretched. You make beautiful, identical arches. You learn — and work to maximize — exactly how perfectly even, thin, perfect a single swi—

“Huh?”

You realize someone has been talking to you while you were zoning out with the wax.

The wax takes about an hour to dry, and four coats are applied in total. A couple of tips:

  1. Don’t do the edges of the room until coats three and four, otherwise it will pool.
  2. Cut a box around the door, as stripper used in the hall will splash under the door and can un-do your hard work. Come back and do that spot later.

The last room I waxed featured the above cut-out of Captain Kirk, which I took as a good sign.

Aside from a coffee break at 9:30 and lunch at 11:30, that was my day. Slow, quiet waxing in an empty building. It was easy, meditative and well…fun. It sounds ridiculous: here’s a guy with a M.Ed. who’s really enjoying the process of waxing floors, but there it was. I really enjoyed the process of waxing floors.

It was low stress, easy and offered instant gratification. I also began to feel a kind of kinship with my blue-collar brothers and sisters. We’re behind the scenes — which I prefer — doing a job that helps everyone else excel at theirs. Faculty, staff, administration and students can do their thing in a building that’s clean, safe and fully functional. It’s a good feeling.

Plus kudos to whoever put that Kirk cut-out in their classroom. You, sir or madam, are doing it right.

Bird calzone

It was that bird with the food in its mouth. Beak. Whatever.

7:18 AM and I’m staring out the window in boxer shorts and a T-shirt that reads “STAR WARS” in faded, yellow letters. Seconds earlier I yelled, “Let’s go, it’s seven eighteen!” to my son who should be getting dressed for school in the next room. By June 7th, he should just know to get dressed. By June 7th, I’m light-years beyond sick of prompting him to get dressed. As I reach for the jeans on the floor — worn yesterday but that’s nothing a blast of Febreeze can’t fix — I see it.

The bird. Outside. Standing on the roof of my shed. Small, grey and tremendously, almost aggressively ordinary. He (or she, who knows) is holding what for him (or her, who knows) is a massive piece of food in his beak. It would be the equivalent of your or I holding a calzone between our teeth.

thebird

The bird is in no rush. He’s just looking around, surveying the land from the gable of my 1970’s tool shed, content that he’s got a day’s worth of grub locked down by 7:18 AM. Everything is honkey-dorey. That’s when I realize it.

I hate this bird.

He (or she) has no bills to pay. No spouse to please. If there are kids, he’ll just deposit some of his bird calzone into their mouths and they’ll be set for the day. The bird has no insurance woes, income tax concerns or thoughts about the pending election. The bird doesn’t know what a job is.

I hate the bird because I wish I were the bird. Not a care in the world and his day made at 7:18 AM. That’s what four months of unemployment does to you.

It makes you hate birds.

Judgey McJudgeFace

I saw this cartoon on Reddit today and it really annoyed me:

9jnKTq0m6XI6WDHVp9is8Il3DtNdGACh2Lkbkl6frs8

Who’s to say the garbage man doesn’t have a great job? That he isn’t happy? He’s outdoors, he gets exercise every day, and he likely started his working life without a mountain of student loan debt. At the end of his work shift he can take pride in the fact that he kept the roadways clean for the judgey parents and their kids, allowing for safe passage and preventing rodents from accumulating.

If money is the concern, I know plumbers and house painters who make six figures a year. But that’s not the point. Don’t assume a blue-collar worker is unhappy, uneducated, poor or in need of a savior with a liberal arts degree. He just might be as happy as a clam. And for the love of God, don’t teach your kids that skilled labor jobs are undesirable! Learning these skills will serve them for as long as they live, and allow them to live and work anywhere in the world.

When you aren’t watching Star Wars read this post

falloutboston

Holy flip, I’m tired.

It’s been a busy week. Some highlights.

I turned 45. This means I’m the oldest person at work and man, I really feel like the oldest person at work. Our meetings are held in rooms with huge, floor-to-ceiling windows that offer reflections at all kinds of unflattering angles. This week I caught sight of my bald, overweight self among a sea of people who are fit and healthy. I looked like the “before” in a room full of “afters.”

Speaking of work, there’s a lot of it. It’s a great gig to be sure. Very challenging and demanding. This is the first I’ve every had an office desk job which is crazy to think about. I went from college to teaching to IT to writing from home. Now I have a cubicle with photos of my kids and a construction paper pen cup festooned with macaroni, buttons and “I’m as lucky as can be for the world’s best dad belongs to me” in six-year-old handwriting. I’m sure I’m doing a good job but I worry that I’m doing a good job. You know?

In other slovenly news I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time playing Fallout 4 on our new X-Box. See paragraph three for there result of this behavior.

Finally, this tweet made me tear up a little. I miss you guys, too.

 

My changing role at Apple World Today

My role at Apple World Today has changed. As of today, I’ve handed the role of Editor in Chief to Steve Sande, and assumed role of contributing writer. Why? Time, attention and focus.

As you may know, I began work at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) a few weeks ago. It’s been a great challenge and I’m really enjoying the work. I’ve also had to make some adjustments in my life as a result. For the first time since our kids were born, my wife and I are both working 40 hours per week outside of the house. We’re up for that challenge, and a challenge it is. Chores that I always took care of — soccer practice, ballet pick-up and drop-off, dump runs, groceries and more — now require forethought and planning, as I’m out of the house from 8:15 AM until about 5:30.

In short, I just can’t work what essentially are two full-time jobs and still be a decent husband and father. I won’t work at AWT if I can’t give it my all, as that’s not fair to Steve and Dennis, our advertisers, our patrons and our readers. So it’s time to stop being selfish and step aside.

I’ll still contribute articles here and there, so you aren’t completely rid of me. Thanks for reading and supporting the site all this time. I hope you continue to do so, as Steve and Dennis are fully dedicated.

“I felt like I’d murdered something beautiful”

Helena Price unfollowed everyone she was following online, and I’m very jealous. At first it was hard:

“I was really attached to the feeds I’d curated on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. With Twitter in particular — over the years I had slowly crafted a collection of creatives, techies, journalists and more, constantly pumping my feed with great content. I loved the community I had there. I felt like I stomped it all into the ground, and that sucked.”

But then…

“Within a week, the noise of a million links and avatars in my brain was gone, and I didn’t miss it. I felt like I could focus on one thing at a time and think complete thoughts. I could think clearly about my priorities and no longer felt like I was drowning in tasks and distractions.”

I’ve noticed that my ability to focus is worse than it has ever been, and I blame, in part, my addiction to information. Scanning hundreds of updates per day from several sources has made it hard to focus. Even reading a book is now labor-intensive.

I wish I had Helena’s bravery.

[Via Shawn Blanc]

All right, so what now?

41954d7def7899e613a74791a6a11563Welp, as of 5:00 PM Eastern today I’m officially unemployed. It’s going to be weird to wake up tomorrow and not assume my regular duties. Though, I must admit, I won’t miss digging myself out of a couple hundred PR emails. What am I going to do now?

Lots of things, and that’s exciting. I’m launching AppleWord.today with two other former TUAW editors: Steve Sande and Kelly Hodgkins. Expect lots of great content with a focus on how-to’s, reviews and informative/entertaining videos out the ying-yang.

I’ve got Board Games Weekly up and running (though it’s been neglected a bit). I want to start doing play-through videos there with my gaming group, but that will take time and money. I’m thinking of putting the show on Patreon.

Home Work is still up and running of course, and I’m having a good time with it. I’m still writing at Unclutterer, too.

As of this writing, two of those four projects are bringing in $0.00 (I’ll let you guess). That will change probably, but I won’t be earning the equivalent of my old salary for a while. As a result, I’ll be doing all sorts of stuff to keep my head above water and food on my family’s table. Several people have offered the opportunity for me to write freelance articles, and I’m going to take them up on that. I have a friend who’s a fisherman, and he’ll let me help sort mussels (I did it last summer, too. It’s hard work but strangely satisfying).

Things are kind of wide open right now and that’s exciting. I have the time and inclination to say “yes” to projects. It’s also scary, as I need to start earning money fast. But I’m choosing to be excited. If you’ve enjoyed my work so far, come along for the ride. 2015 should be interesting to say the least.

In honor of old friends

tuawtalking

First you freak the fuck out and then you realize it’s OK.

Then you freak out.

You’re sitting at your desk with your ergonomic keyboard and your Futurama action figures and that green tea you paid too much for because it had Japanese characters on the package and that means it’s VALID green tea, and then the bottom drops out. It’s like when you’re at dinner with your parents, your spouse and your kids, and your more-than-middle-aged dad announces, in between bites of Chicken Kiev, that the hemorrhoid cream he bought is JUST NOT WORKING.

In my case, “hemorrhoid cream” is my job and “JUST NOT WORKING” is I don’t have it anymore.

Remember when I stopped writing for 52T so I could concentrate on TUAW? LOL!

After a decade with TUAW, the fun has come to an end. Our parent company is shuttering the site as part of an internal reorganization. I’ll miss lots of things about my job — like it being a job that provides a paycheck — including the people.

My team at TUAW, present and past, consisted of true pros. I’m talking about people who are crazy smart, dedicated and fun. I’ll miss the frenzy of covering live Apple press events (we were a freaking MACHINE on those days), big events like Macworld Expo, riding the “the 1337 cab” around San Francisco (Doc, Brett and Kelly G. will remember that one), as well as the day-to-day posting, editing and shooting the shit in IRC. OLD SCHOOL BABY. A huge thank-you to all of you.

Thanks especially to Steve Sande (even though he never let me wear the Indiana Jones hat), Mike Rose (who put up with my horrific grammar and spelling for YEARS, and taught me how to write) and Vic Agreda, who made me a full-time employee. I’ve been with you three the longest. You poor bastards. Thanks to C.K. Sample III who hired me in the first place, and Scott McNulty whose editorial red pen has made me a better writer. Never start sentence with “so”!

This is the second time in six years that I’ve lost a job due to the decision of a parent company. That’s like winning the lottery in hell. The FREAKING OUT will continue, mostly because my bank refuses to accept tears and/or groveling as payment on my mortgage. But I’ll figure it out.

Oh, and I’ll be writing here again. Only now I drink the cheap-ass tea.

Listen all y’all it’s a sabotage

sabotage

I don’t know what’s up with this but I have a tendency to sabotage myself. Not in the little things, either. I’ll let stuff go that I know will cause huge problems. I wonder if other people do this or if it means I have a serious psychological problem. Maybe it’s why so many of my projects fail?