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Visiting the Kitchen


There’s a lot of food in the office. Not only is there the occasional lunch meeting or event that I’m directly involved in, but on any given day somebody is likely to be bringing in lunch, and the extras move to the community area of the kitchen when they were finished. So there is often a slice of pizza here, a little sandwich there, maybe a cookie, too. Okay, there is always a cookie.

When I started the job several years ago, the new hours got in the way of my mid-day jogs in the woods, too. (There’s a lot to like about the schedule of an at-home academic!)

I had been a graduate student used to brown-bagging it for years. So it felt like not taking advantage of all those goodies was somehow equivalent to turning down a benefit. I was stuck in the mode of trying to maximize my benefit without thinking carefully about what exactly I was maximizing. Confronted with this new, must-consume bounty and reduced physical activity, I put on some weight, and it took quite a while to figure out how to moderate.

All this occurred to me the other day while I was topping off a mug of water in one of those kitchens. The walk down the hall for water, tea first thing in the morning 1, is one of the ways I get away from my desk to think without the screen in front of me. I wasn’t focusing well that morning and needed the diversion.

As it happens I had also been listening – catching up after a couple of weeks – to a Back to Work episode partly about deciding when enough technology was enough, and understanding that thee is a point at which collecting more workflow blogs or MHz no longer helps (Which was also very interesting to listen to after my previous post on being good enough or tuned enough. So this notion of stopping at the right amount of tooling was already somewhat on mind when I began to think about the food bounty that occasionally still confronts me at the office kitchen.

They’re not so different, really; both situations require learning how to show some restraint, but there’s a sometimes tricky balance. Just as I need the walk down the hall to change scenery and regain my focus, I can also thrive on updating my processes and adjusting the way I work, enough to kick start my thinking in order to really re-engage.

The thing to avoid is getting stuck in the tweaking cycle – or visiting the kitchen – as a way to avoid the thinking, processing, writing, phone-calling obstacle that may be confronting me back at the desk. So I’m working on being a little more conscientious about those diversions, physical and digital.

I’m finding that this helps me a lot at home, too, where the toddler’s requirements are perhaps even less forgiving to my inclination to putter around. With less time to tinker, I have to be ready to take advantage of my opportunities to do anything that isn’t making dinner or reading books with him – if I have to spin up the FTLs every time I get fifteen (or five) free minutes, then all I ever get around to doing is “starting.” And I want to do a lot more than that.

  1. I did decide long ago that the coffee at work generally wasn’t worth wasting my taste buds on, but I have sufficiently poor appreciation for tea that I don’t mind whatever bulk-bags of it they stock. [return]