I used to put my hours on a time card. I used to slot it into metal container made especially for that purpose. I didn’t punch in because that would have required too much investment on the machine that actually made the punches. I would just carefully scrawl the time and date of when I started and stopped working. I didn’t guesstimate or fudge the numbers. I just looked over at the clock around the corner and wrote down the time that it said. If I was clocking in, I would put on my fanny pack of money and head out the door to take orders. If I was clocking out, I would grab my cheeseburger with grilled mushrooms and well done cajun fries. It was my first job and I was glad for every hour that I had it.
Now, I write almost nothing down about the time I spend on a given day at work. I arrive when I need to for meetings and to get my accomplishments done. I leave when a late meeting is off site or when it is time to get my children. Some days, I don’t come to the office. I just work from home and listen to music while I type up emails and solve the problems that seem to be most pressing. Most of the time, the clock holds almost no importance to me. I don’t look at it longingly, hoping for it to go faster. I don’t count hours and think about how many more it will take to buy another CD or movie ticket. I don’t even think about it in terms of when my next class will come in and want to learn something that I haven’t fully fleshed out yet.
Recently, I have felt almost no need to justify my time to anyone. My goals are easy enough to set and achieve. Clear out my email. Blog once a day. Meet with the people that want to meet with me. Collaborate on projects that I set in motion. Everything is persisting. My work products are so instantly sharable that I feel valued from those that have no relationship to my accountability. I don’t have daily checkins with anyone and the projects that seem to get the most attention are ones that require tending rather than envisioning or planning.
In some ways, I long for the clock. I long for the simple piece of paper that had all of my ins and outs on it. I wish I could justify all of the time that I am taking to square up with what I want to be doing. I wish that my email checks were all there in black and white showing me just how much time I spend on archiving and filtering and sometimes even replying. And more than that, I wish I could actually dedicate a block of time to creating and doing. When you are on the clock, distractions are not okay. You can’t look into putting linux onto a boot cd just to see if you can boot it up on an old mac, at least not without writing it up on the time card.
I do not envy those working in food service, save this one sacred truism: they know what they are doing.
I sure wish I did, or at least I wish I could know what I have done. As it stands now, I have to reference things like the “the long tail” and community creation as successes. I have to show things like PDF files and Moodle courses as the meaning of my days spent in this chair.
Burgers and fries are easy to quantify; ideas are not. I am working on it, though.