Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Be Smarter at Work, Slack Off." Carol found this article from Fortune Magazine. It challenges the idea of multi-tasking being the mark of creativity and genius. This quote from Peter Drucker describes the problem that I have faced since entering the legal profession:

"To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive . . . needs to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours."

I keep a daily time record so that I know at the end of the day how much time I spend on each matter. Sometimes there are over 25 entries! And most of them are occasioned by interruptions of one sort of another. By the end of the day, when I ask myself what really have I accomplished, other than keeping a good time record, I don't like my answer. You would think that after 35+ years of trying to deal with this problem, I would have solved it. But it is a daily struggle.

My observaton is that many lawyers spend long hours in the office because they have to look busy and account for a certain number of billable hours during the regular work day. After the work day is over, they simply extend the stay at the office so that they can have some uninterrupted time to think. The clients get billed on the basis of those work-day "dribs and drabs" that the lawyer records on the file, but the real value being added occurs when the staff goes home, the phone stops ringing, and the office gets quiet. The difficulty is that when the lawyer has a family waiting for him at home, he must limit the amount of time at the office he would otherwise extend into the evening.

Last night we watched two documentaries on the the life of Billy Graham. They were both complimentary. One had David Frost as the narrator, and was largely focused on Graham's international work. The other had Walter Cronkite as the narrator, and it focused on Graham's relationship to his wife and to his family. What struck me was the huge chunks of time that Graham spent away from his family, literally months and months. When his children were very small, they didn't even remember who he was when he would come home. But those times away that Graham had, surrounded by a competent team, with the mission clearly defined, provided the basis of Graham's great success. I don't mean to suggest that the success was not enabled by the Holy Spirit, but that enabling probably occurred in ways that are consistent with the managment principle that Drucker refers to. (And clearly God poured his grace out on the family back home, and Ruth Bell Graham was a giant in her own right.) I also don't mean that family should be forsaken, and that fathers do not have a responsibility to attend to the daily needs of their wives and chldren. Graham, after all, is a figure who arises once every generation or two. But his life is instructive.

Some of us will, in fact, "go home" and leave the office. But the home itself, as it has been transformed into an entertainment center, is a place where wholesome "chunks of time" get diced into "dribs and drabs" as we hop around the internet, pop in the latest DVD from NetFlx, pick up and put down magazines and catalogs, and keep the house constantly full of music of one sort or another.

Even the contemporary worship service has become busy and "entertaining". We want to have good pace during the service; we don't want to linger too long with any one module; we don't want the line to go dead with spaces of quiet - someone may get bored; and, besides that, why aren't you up there in the choir with that voice with which God has gifted you? Why aren't you "serving"? The service is, after all, for the "seeker", as if I, having "accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord", have found all the God I really need.

Happy Easter!

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