Erosion


I have a vague recollection of having had four major periods of sleep deprivation in my lifetime:

  1. a good part of my graduation year, amidst working, studying, and pulling all-nighters for various reasons
  2. a while back in Engineering, amidst working on 3G, backhaul and DPI plus around fifteen other things all at once
  3. around the time my first kid was born
  4. now

One thing about “now” is that I’m pretty much at the peak of the initial three to four months’ worth of 2-hour feeding cycles, which entails stumbling blearily into the kitchen at any random time between 2 and 4am to paw at the cupboard for formula and a pre-assembled sterilized bottle (remember, kids, logistics and preparation are key to success in delivering any physical product, be it a phone or a bottle of warm milk), avoiding falling asleep while the little Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal suckles on it, persuading the tiny critter to burp afterwards and, of course, re-wrapping the little bundle of joy in a fresh diaper and getting it to settle down.

All of this done on tiptoe in an attempt to avoid waking up his (now jealous and tantrum-prone) sibling – which ordinarily sleeps regular hours, but is showing the sort of endearing mood that people have come to associate with me (ah, the joys of genetics) – and having to get up in the morning to an uncertain match between my thus hampered intellectual abilities and the entropy pit that are office hours.

And I’m only doing a part of it – getting through entire days with both of them is, I’m told, an experience on par with trying to manage the cargo manifest of an airplane carrier while bungee jumping, so I would (ordinarily) be glad to be away at the office during working hours.

There is, of course, a catch – my sense of humor is now impaired to the extent where Gregory House and Sheldon Cooper seem like paragons of congeniality and merriment, which isn’t exactly good when your primary (unacknowledged) job is, to a large extent, dealing with people (and politics) to get things done and when such things are to be done in at a frantic pace with enough organization to cater for procedural backups when things go wrong (my outlying paranoia to guard against trouble in projects has been escalating to the point where it now calls for the equivalent of belt, suspenders and duct tape).

Plus I’m (as usual) the default gateway for stuff that doesn’t quite fit anywhere, and am interrupted around five times an hour on good days.

My answer to the organization bit and the marked decrease on effective attention span is simple – copious one-sentence notes and checklists in Evernote, as well as liberal use of flags on the veritable firehose of e-mails I have to contend with (now clocking in at tens of thousands and 4-5GB each three months, of which I usually archive a quarter).

The interruptions are best addressed by leveraging the great bits about working in a mobile company – picking a floor at random and camping out on the common areas, where there are low tables and chairs with great views to the outside (and hence enough sunlight to keep me readily awake), working “remotely”. Since we have no landlines I’m just as reachable as on my desk, but this arrangement neatly cuts down on all the impulsive, matter-of-fact questioning, petitioning, and sometimes outright passing the buck that daily re-asserts Dilbert as the best possible insight into the inner workings of large corporations.

Sadly, I can’t always do that – people have weird reactions to the notion that one might actually want to spend an entire morning working on a document without interruptions instead of my listening to their every little quibble, and the ingrained European view towards office work (regardless of posturing and outspoken support of remote working) is still mostly “where is he?” rather than “where are the results?” (the one thing I miss from working with US folk and companies), so peace of mind is somewhat uneven.

Thankfully, most of my colleagues have as much initiative and self-drive as intelligence, so there’s very little cat-herding involved (or, more cynically, at least the cats here are smarter).


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