Monday, May 3, 2010

Validating my checklist neurosis!

I am in a Linkedin group called Coffee with Soma. We meet once a month, and are led by my MBA marketing professor, Dr. Soma. Soma is his first name, his last name, and his nickname. It's sort of complicated, and he explained it in class one day. He's Indian, and his name is quite long, but it starts with "Soma" which I guess means "sun" in Hindu, or something like that, and he liked the idea of his name meaning "sun", so he goes by Soma. Right. Good thing I clarified all of that.

I really enjoy the group. It's sort of like my bookclub, but without the book. We usually read an article or something, so we have a basis of our discussion. The group allows me to get together with a bunch of other intelligent people and talk about something other than our jobs, without having to formally network. I don't feel the pressure of presenting myself in these meetings. Anyone who's survived the standard display of MBA networking events knows how exhausting it is to constantly speak positively about the MBA experience, and how it's shaping your life, and what you hope to do with it, and how you're now empowered to be an agent of positive business change, and what you bring to the table, and how you really enjoy meeting other business professionals, and blah blah blah. And at some point, you're trying to be bright and cheery and wonderful and impressive, and you realize no one has said anything interesting to you all night, no matter who you engage in conversation, and you'd much rather be home in your jammies reading some chick lit. THANKFULLY, Coffee with Soma has none of that nonsense in it.

In our April meeting, we used Atul Gawande's article, The Checklist, as the basis of our discussion. Basically, the article discusses how Dr. Peter Pronovost studied the affects of checklists in ICUs and discovered that using basic checklists brought down the rates of infections significantly.

I've already written a post about how I'm trying to use electronic checklists at work to save paper. A friend, in response to that post, suggested I check out remember the milk. I've found it sort of useful at work, although for work it doesn't really do anything more than what my task manager in outlook does. Or at least, as I use the tool. So I'm undecided as to whether or not it's actually useful, or if it's just one more thing for me to do. At any rate, clearly I'm a fan of checklists.

Our discussion ran the gamut from how useful we found checklists to be, to whether or not they stifled creativity (I say no!). Then we moved into the more philosophical questions of, how much do we need to be doing?, and why are we so obsessed with always being busy?

This is one I struggle with myself.

On one hand, there's a lot of stuff I want to do and get done. I don't think Captain America and I would have done nearly as much as we did on either our trip to Egypt, or to Switzerland and Italy if I hadn't bothered to make lists of what we wanted to do, when museums were open, and what were priorities. I can say this with a fair amount of confidence, as I did very little planning before my trip to Rio de Janeiro, and consequently, I felt like I didn't fully experience Brazil.

On the other hand, I (and probably most of us) spend a good deal of time doing things that have very little value for me. Blow drying my hair, for example. Seriously. If I actually want to walk out of my house after a shower with dry hair, it's at least a 15 minute project. I have short, but moderately thick hair. Personally, I have no problem with showing up at work with wet hair. I don't interact with the public, so it's not like looking good is going to help me sell more stuff. Whether or not my hair is wet has no bearing on how well I do my job. But it looks unprofessional. I don't want to appear unprofessional. I want to be promotable. To what, I'm not even sure yet, but I'd hate for someone to make a negative assumption about my professionalism due to my wet hair. I know how petty that sounds, but the reality is, looks do matter. So I blow dry my hair.

I use to-do lists for a variety of reasons. They help me remember stuff. They help me sift through the important and unimportant stuff. They allow me to think better: since I don't have to remember everything, I can actually focus on what I need to be thinking about. But lately, I've also started thinking about why I'm doing something. I'm hoping that by learning which items have good answers to that question and which ones don't, I can eliminate the to-dos that have somehow become a part of my life but don't actually add value to it.

That should make me happier, more relaxed, and give me more time for...blow drying my hair?

1 comment:

  1. It took me years to get comfortable with not blow drying my hair - in the end, I had to accept that what I was doing was actually giving me healthier hair, which in the long run is more attractive ... right? ;) And then I moved to Egypt, where if you walk out of the house with wet hair, everyone assumes you've just had sex. I'm not joking. But then I realized I don't care what any of them thinks, so I just pranced about with my wet hair (which in Egypt stayed wet for all of about 30 seconds). But now that I've got bangs, I'm back to blow drying the bangs to get them straight! Ah, life. What irony!