Marisette Edwards-van Linden van den Heuvell

Productivity tools and FII

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Why the hell am I awake? It’s Sunday morning. It’s the only day of the week that I can sleep late. Every other day of the week, I am prying my eyes open between the time my three alarms start going off at 5:30 AM, and when I’m actually getting moving at around 7 AM. But on Sunday, after a really late bedtime, I’m wide awake before freaking 6 AM. And I even remembered to turn off all three of those alarms last night. Every other day of the week, I am eating my breakfast, packing my lunch, doing everything to get ready for work, and I’m standing at the garage door with a reasonable chance of being only half an hour late when my irritable colon says bathroom time now. On Sunday morning, that happens at 6 AM.

But I digress.

I was going to write about how I have attention deficit disorder or, or ADD. But that’s a lie and not fair to the people who have ADD – it’s really a thing. The “condition” I have is focus interruption irritation. Let’s call it FII or “fee!”, which sounds about right. That seems like the right kind of irritated sound to make for whenever something I’m trying to do gets interrupted by something else. The first example of that is what I just did. That’s taking a normal phrase and turning it into an abbreviation. Then I have to remember whatever that thing means. An abbreviation is not easier than just having the words written out. And with cut and paste technology there’s really no reason for it. Why are we so obsessed with doing that? LMAO.

We could add “syndrome” to the end of my condition to make FIIS or “fees!” because that brings bank charges to mind and I could really detour there. How is it right to charge me $3 to take out $20 of my own damn money? Fees! If I weren’t so tired from waking up after only four hours of sleep I would do the math to figure out the annual percentage rate. It looks like 150% to me in my haze.

Here’s a typical work day with FII. It starts in the morning with something that I admit is actually kind of self imposed. I try to multitask (I know, there’s no such thing; I rapidly sequentially task) by starting one thing and while I’m waiting for that, trying to do another thing. I call that being efficient, but it generally results in minor disaster. For instance, putting something on the stove, then going off and emptying the dishwasher. When the burning smell reminds me I had something on the stove, I leave the half empty dishwasher open. The next time I walk past it, I smack my shin on the open door. Yes, that’s very effective multitasking.

On this particular morning, my coffee grinder decides to bite the dust. It’s brand-new, a part of my carefully researched efficient coffee making system aimed at improving my punctuality while still meeting my exacting morning coffee needs. Now it’s making extra loud grindy noises but no ground coffee is coming out. So I have to find the manual, which doesn’t give much troubleshooting advice. I take the coffee beans out of the hopper, spilling beans all over the kitchen counter and floor. Then I have to take the thing apart. All of this with recently pried open eyes. Because it’s not Sunday. So I go over and get the broom and sweep up the spilled beans. By the time I have repeated this process three times (emptying the hopper, spilling the beans, sweeping them up, taking the hopper apart, finding nothing wrong inside, putting the hopper back together, putting the beans in, starting up the device and having it do the same grinding noise again), I’m standing in the middle of my kitchen crying. Luckily, I have my grandmother’s old pre-World War II coffee grinder as a decoration hanging on the wall in my kitchen. I take all of my spilled beans over. (Even some of the ones that fell on the floor. They’re COFFEE. Don’t judge.) I throw them in the top of that crusty old hopper, spilling more beans, and start grinding by hand. Hallelujah! That thing works just as well as the fancy-schmancy broken grinder. And it doesn’t need power. But now my finely honed and tuned morning routine is extended by an extra five minutes of hand grinding operation. This is the kind of thing I just don’t have the time for. Besides, I already have an exercise plan.

I have forbidden myself from opening my emails in the morning. That would be the death knell. But I do sometimes just pick up my phone and look at it. Because it’s smart and tells me about what I’m already late for today and whether it’s going to be rained on. Or how to begin a warranty return process. That’s when I get the little message: time for an upgrade. Three choices: Now, Remind me later, or More information. How about never? I just want to know what’s up today. But, OK. I can be efficient and multitask. I didn’t say I quickly learn from my mistakes.

Why don’t I just start this little upgrade while I’m finishing my breakfast? Of course now I have to read 55 pages of user agreement. Really, I have to do that? I really have a choice? You’ve hijacked my phone, and now you tell me that I can either not do the upgrade, but there are a serious security issue being fixed with it, or I can return the phone if I haven’t used it. Of course I wouldn’t get the message if I hadn’t already started using it. So, leave it vulnerable or not, do you really think that’s a choice? You know I was just trying to see what my day looks like, right?

So in spite of my other condition, fear of missing information, or FOMI (FII! Hah!), I go ahead and click agree. I’m sure somebody else will read all 55 pages, find something really annoying and unacceptable, and flame Apple on the Internet, whereupon somebody else will post it on Facebook and I will be informed. Eventually. FOMI is why I stopped getting the newspaper. I could feel the paper mocking me for not reading all the precious information within it. But I couldn’t throw it out unread. So they piled up. Better not to know what I don’t know than to have a mountain of mocking newsprint inciting guilt for not making the time to improve myself. It’s also why I turn off all the little badges on apps that give a count judging me for what I’m not informing myself of. Only, I can’t turn off the upgrade one except by upgrading.

Where was I? Oh, yes, FII!

So I’ve made it out the door and into my car. Using the incredibly useful hands free Bluetooth connection between my phone and car, I try to call somebody on my way. Once again I’m multitasking. They don’t answer. I hear their quick recording, “You know what to do,” and then, argh! A very slow lady in the phone thinks I don’t know what to do. “Your call is being answered by an automated voice message system. The person you called is not available. Please record your message. After recording, you may hang up or press one for more options. Press 5 to leave a callback number.” I know how to do this, it’s been around for like decades. You’ve just wasted another 45 seconds of my life telling me how to do something I already know how to do. And I can’t leave my damn message until you’re done talking. I know there is a trick where you can press some button to just leave your message immediately, but, hands free, remember? For the benefit of those calling me, I’ve tried to get rid of this message on my voice mail but it’s impossible. I don’t think that callback number thing even works. Other drivers must be wondering why am pounding the steering wheel and screaming into thin air. Maybe I overreact to the nice voicemail lady.

(I tried to save time typing this by calling my own voice mail and having the iPad interpret. That went well: “you call it an automatic voice and I could not available at the tone please record your message when you’re recording you may hang up or press one for more options”. When I got to work the next day I had two voicemails waiting. I couldn’t listen because I forgot my password. When I finally found it, they were just two hangups. It seriously took me five minutes before I remembered that I was the one who called myself to hear the recording. Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. )

I come in to work and I turn on my computer. This is supposed to be a productivity tool. Instead it comes up slowly and finally says, “Configuring Windows updates. 33% complete. Do not shut off your computer”. Um. I just turned it on, why would I turn it off again? Okay, I guess it’s time to go get some coffee. I come back five minutes later with my coffee, and now there’s a window that says (I’m paraphrasing here): “You need a new password right now. Nope, you can’t do anything else until you think up a new password eight characters at least and one capital letter and one lowercase letter and a number and some special character but don’t make it the same thing as last time with a new number on the end, we’ve caught on to that trick. And don’t write it down, because you don’t want anyone else finding it.” I recently counted and I have over 75 passwords. None of the password rules are the same, of course, so I have 75 passwords that I’m supposed to try to store in my brain, which: FII.

Finally, I’ve invented a brand-new password that’s acceptable. It does contain cleverly disguised profanity. It’s my only way of fighting back. Now for the rest of the day when my computer goes to sleep after 15 minutes of me not typing something, I can type the password wrong first.

I tried to stop the going to sleep thing. It’s a setting enforced by IT that can’t be changed. Sometimes I’m reading. From a book. Remember those? And I want the computer to remind me when my next meeting is. It only does that if it’s not sleeping. It goes to sleep as punishment when I’m not lovingly caressing it at least once every 15 minutes. It is so needy. I figured out a way to keep it awake, but someone from IT may be reading this so I’m not telling. It involved another lengthy Internet search.

The reason I need the computer to tell me when my next meeting is, instead of my phone, is that if I want reminders I have to copy my meetings by emailing the info from my work computer to my phone. When I go to do that, I have to open both my email and my calendar, and, squirrel! All is lost. I don’t HAVE to, but in a fit of FOMI I read about the restrictions IT puts on the use of personal phones for accessing company data. Boiling down those 55 pages, in a nutshell, IT would have to maintain my phone and they could choose to delete my contacts and calendars if I left the company, or, just crossed them. I have a better than average chance of crossing IT. My computer doesn’t go to sleep every fifteen minutes anymore.

I fire up my word processor. The text I’m trying to read is obliterated by a little tab that says “welcome back, this is where you left off”. This is new. Words can’t convey how not helpful this little thing is. The only thing rivaling its unhelpfulness is the pop up that obliterates the words I have just selected with a formatting menu, so now I can’t see what I have just selected. And yet, lists still don’t work right. Once again a search on the Internet tells me that I can’t get rid of it. At least they killed the talking paper clip.

Now, a message pops up on my screen saying, “A restart is required by the most recent IT upgrade. Restart will automatically commence in 59 minutes.” Wait, didn’t I just start up? And what is this upgrade anyway? Oh, it’s something I don’t even use. Ignore. One minute later, the same message pops up except now it’s 58 minutes. Another minute later the same message pops up except now it’s 57 minutes. … This is why IT will not be maintaining my phone.

Where was I? Oh, yes, FII!

I need to research a technical problem. So I turn to the Internet. I type in my question, select a good candidate for reading, and land on the Zscaler page. This helps protect me and my company from inappropriate use of the Internet. I have to confirm that I really want to go to this site, then read a message describing the rules under which I am allowed to use the Internet, then click “yes, master” (paraphrasing again) and then click on the link that lets me through to the original website that I was trying to get to. I’m a software engineer, people! Everything I need is on the Internet. I get a feeling it’s not appropriate to be sitting at my desk banging my head on it.

Now it’s time for a training session. That’s when somebody takes PowerPoint slides, puts thousands of words on them, and then stands in front of the room and reads them to me. Word. For. Word. For me this causes cognitive dissonance, because I read faster than the presenter talks. It sets up such a clatter in my head that I learn less than I would from either listening or reading it myself. I’m actually being un-trained by this training. At least I have my coffee. I swear to God this really happened: I was in a meeting that had a PowerPoint presentation like this. The power went out. Presenters went running around for half an hour, while all 60 people in the room were waiting, to get a battery back up device. After 30 minutes, the battery back up was found, and the projector was running again. Whereupon the author of this text stood and read the exact same text that we were looking at on the screen. His laptop ALREADY RAN FROM BATTERIES. Like he couldn’t just have stood there and read it from his screen without showing it to us? Isn’t that what “presenting” means?

But I digress.

I’m back at my desk. I’ve been at work for four hours, and I haven’t gotten any work done. I no longer get a paper paycheck mailed to me. Now I have to log on, click through four links, and send it to the printer. When I get to the printer, it says, “Warming up from energy saving mode.” I would go do something else for the next 45 seconds but I’m starting to learn.

Now my hard drive is full. It was automatically set up by the manufacturer to back itself up. To itself. Every day the backup backs up everything on the disk including yesterday’s backup. My new computer filled up its own hard drive by doubling what it was storing every day. The rest of the day is spent trying to figure out what can safely be deleted so that I can save my work. What could go wrong?

I can’t imagine what would happen to me if I started using Twitter.

Gotta go. I just got a pop up that my battery is dying.

I am thinking about drinking weaker coffee though. Save some grinding time.

2 thoughts on “Productivity tools and FII

  1. Vera

    Very funny, seriously sad, and really reassuring that farming is indeed a better choice for me than software engineering 🙂

    1. Marisette Post author

      To be fair, only about half of that stuff has to do with work. The rest is just the way life has changed for all of us. I’m sure you have had to leave voice mails!

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