re-learning how to be a drone
February 22, 2005 8:31 PM   Subscribe

After toiling in freelance obscurity for the past 3.5 years, where I have been working from home 90% of the time, I have FINALLY landed a significant long-term gig working at a large company (technical product manager for a large financial data/systems provider). How on earth do I break my bad work habits developed during this time? E.g.: checking email 20x per minute, posting on MeFi all day long? Are there any tricks to getting back that heads-down focus, any exercises, any advice?
posted by psmealey to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
--don't fire up the browser at all, unless it's lunchtime and you're eating at your desk, or have to for work.

--remember that someone's most likely watching/recording your surfing and email.
posted by amberglow at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2005

I hate to break it to ya, but my solution was to go freelance.

On the other hand, using something like bloglines and restraining visits to only the lunch period is one way of going about it.

I've heard of people scheduling their hosts file to block access to distracting sites except during the lunch period, although that's quite a bit more extreme.
posted by furtive at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2005

To be honest, most people working at large companies do those things too.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 PM on February 22, 2005

To be honest, most people working at large companies do those things too.

*raises hand*

Seroiously, I'm exceedingly bad at keeping these habits reigned in... my only consistent way of having it not get out of hand is to set little daily goals for myself in such a way that I have to meet them -- e.g., I'll decide get a set of galleys proofread by 3 o'clock (say), then I'll call the graphic designer on the project and tell her what time to expect me over to her office. So then I've essentially got no choice but to avoid the email for awhile till that particular task is done.
posted by scody at 9:59 PM on February 22, 2005

What I like about surfing at work is that I don't need to do it when I get home. This leaves me free to spend time with friends, do housework or even just watch TV.


posted by missbossy at 10:48 PM on February 22, 2005

Well, before I had my job I had to do without internet access. And so getting back online was like, well I don't know what I'm online constantly now at work and at home *sigh*.

It dosn't help that MeFi is so much more active now, either...
posted by delmoi at 11:09 PM on February 22, 2005

I'd almost consider disabling the browsers on my work machine, but I'm a software developer, so I need to be able to look up documentation to do my job...
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on February 22, 2005

Best answer: --remember that someone's most likely watching/recording your surfing and email.

That's the big one. Too hard to resist temptation just so you can be a More Profitable And Soulless Corporate Drone. Much easier when the motivation starts with Don't Get Fired From The Cushy Gig As A Corporate Drone. See, "paradigm shift" doesn't have to be just marketing doublespeak. Sometimes it's actually useful. Cheers!

Also, honestly assess how much of your indulgences contribute to your ability to do the job well because perhaps some of it has a legitimate place in your work day. As a freelancer, no one is paying me while I read mefi et al, yet I constantly find professional use for the info soaked up here and elsewhere--and having that extra edge does deliver on the bottom line. There's also benefits like networking, keeping up with industry changes, being able to discuss topics that are relevant to a customer's business/hobbies, sniffing out emerging opportunities/trends while most of the office is chasing fads that are already on the downslope of their lifecycle. Etc. There's plenty of ROI to be had amidst the indulgence.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, damn it...

Just pick carefully enough that you can make a reasoned defense to the boss if need be...

Oh, and here's some tips for getting email out of the way more efficiently so you'll have be able to carve out more time for Minesweeper TPS Reports.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:44 PM on February 22, 2005

Get a desk located directly next to your boss or a colleague. You'll be less apt to screw around with someone in close vicinity of you (and your monitor). But then again, they may not appreciate you cutting in on their screwing around time.
posted by quadog at 1:19 AM on February 23, 2005

no one does work at work places. if we do, it is by chance. to do work, just feel desparate. non-work is play. it is all in your head.
posted by theatrical matriarch at 2:12 AM on February 23, 2005

Scody's answer is best, IMO. In a work environment, you will often have those small deadlines throughout the day/week- it helps if you have a hardass supervisor who will call you on your deadlines. Too often, people don't really pay attention to what you have said.

However, there can be *great* satisfaction in giving yourself a self-imposed deadline and then finishing on or ahead of time. First of all it makes you look good and on top of things. Secondly, there is the important sense of smugness one gets from feeling "done".

If you finish ahead of time and don't let anyone know, you can use the excess time to goof off.
posted by jeremias at 6:40 AM on February 23, 2005

Unfortunately, reading blogs/news sources/interesting stuff actually is part of my job description.

Ok, maybe that's not unfortunate, or I'd have been fired by now. BUT it does make it very difficult to buckle down.

What I've discovered is the best method is to get myself internetted out. To surf until there be no more surfage I'm interested in! I have my web seq down to fewer than a dozen total sites, with 7 to be refreshed throughout the day. When there's nothing new, I get bored enough to do the rest of my job.
posted by u.n. owen at 7:05 AM on February 23, 2005

Get the book "How to Work the Competition Into the Ground" by John T. Molloy. It addresses exactly this problem. It's OOP, but you can still get used copies from Amazon. Totally awesome.
posted by josh at 12:29 PM on February 23, 2005

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