My programmer brother sent this to me during an extremely stressful period in my life, and we laughed and laughed over it on instant messenger.
It is the truest comic ever.
At the time, I had a full work load for a client who very much wanted to pound my freelancer square peg into his cubicled employee round hole. And I was resisting.
My client, I am quite sure, would have expected my work day to look like that red dashed line. At my desk at 9, clocking out at 6, and nice, measurable chunks of productivity in between.
Knowing that my client probably functioned like this himself, or at least expected me to, I tried very hard to keep regular hours, so that when he called to check in, I was available. But my productivity during the year plus I worked for them? The solid blue line. To a T.
That midnight spike of brilliance? Yup. The spike wherein you wake up at 4am with a full brain and you stumble to the computer to get all your ideas out before they flee. TOTALLY. (The 4am spike can also come from trying to shut it down at 1am and sleep like a normal person, but you can’t because ALL OF THE IDEAS are running through your head and you finally give in and get up and work.)
My absolute favorite is the bit of the chart showing the recovery period after an interruption or a meeting.
The truest true that ever trued, y’all. You see, a creative geek-type gets in the zone. And it takes a while to get in the zone. You have to warm up, sketch, stretch your mind fibers. Click around the internet, look at others’ solutions before your brain clicks into gear. But once it does? It’s go time. And a five minute phone call or, heaven forbid, a meeting, will destroy it ALL.
Here’s another comic my brother sent me which illustrates this perfectly. It’s about programming, but you could replace code with any type of thinking and puzzling that preludes creative work.
I would be in the trenches, you know? The total zone. Sorting out, I don’t know, how I was going to hand paint detail on some fabric designs, or coming up with a theme for holiday promotions that would broadcast out to social media. The phone would ring.
And it wasn’t just a check in, it was a twenty minute (sometimes longer) phone call where I’d get dozens of new tasks piled on. The current project not only went poof, it was eviscerated. Once I hung up, I had piles of hastily scribbled notes in my hand, an incomplete project on the screen, and what felt like four hundred threads in front of me. I could pick up any one of them, follow it to a given task, but what to do with the others? They’d get tangled up and lost without a little care.
It would take me so much time to organize the scribbled notes, enter them into some kind of online task tracking software (I sometimes used Asana and tried to get the others at the company to use it as well, but to no avail), prioritize all the new tasks against the existing task list from the last phone call, and sort out which project needed my redirected attention first.
It was tough. Especially with a manager who didn’t seem to have the slightest idea how a creative person tended to work, or the kind of environment they needed to be the most productive. I resisted working on site in an office because I knew the interruptions would skyrocket. I don’t think working in a cubicle is bad for everyone, I just knew it would be bad for me.
I’m amazed every day at how different managing Sun Tails feels. My work load has probably quadrupled several times over, but I’m happier and calmer, and much, much more productive. I know it’s because I’m in an environment where my skills are recognized and utilized in the best way possible, and I’m exploring ways to ensure that anyone I hire feels the same way.
As our company grows, I too will be in the tough position of managing employees and trying not to utterly piss them off. My brother once said that his most wonderful boss was once a programmer — a guy who understood how programmers often worked – in erratic, irregular, unplottable fits and starts, and that the only way to ensure a programmer (or other creative) is doing a good job is to look at the end result. Very true. Super true, in fact.
I know ending a blog post with a question feels like a cheap shot for interaction, but I’m really curious: What kind of attributes do you appreciate in a boss / manager type? What things drive you mad?