Workin’ 9 to 5? [Weekly Head Voices #28]

(This post touches on one noteworthy good news tidbit from my last week, then secretly waxes nostalgic over Dolly Parton, showcases some cheeky parkour and then, after complaining about my overloaded schedule, raises backyard sociological questions as to the most suitable work approach: Time-driven 9 to 5 or output-driven? Oh yes, its WHV Nerd Index is a reassuring 0/5, so it’s safe for everyone!)

I couldn’t come up with a catchy title involving Dolly, so you’re going to have to make do with what I have.  When I say Dolly, I’m not referring to the cloned sheep, but to her Country singer namesake Dolly Parton.  Google seems to think that Dolly Parton (3 million hits) is more famous than Dolly the cloned sheep (1.25 million hits), so now you know. In any case, Dolly (Parton, for those of you with really short attention spans) once starred in a movie called Nine to Five and, being a famous Country singer, also performed the theme song, called, in a completely unexpected turn of events, 9 to 5. And yes, I do remember seeing the movie more or less when it came out, and I vividly remember Dolly Parton: She was on our television a whole lot, plus that her unique appearance would make it hard not to.

Dolly Parton with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda at the left and right respectively: The leading Nine to Five cast. Those were the days!

Dolly Parton with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda at the left and right respectively: The leading Nine to Five cast. Those were the days!

Perhaps as a kind of unicorn chaser, or, if you’re secretly a Parton fan, just as an entertaining interlude, I’d like to show you this wonderful YouTube clip of two British parkour gentlemen, who obviously have a great deal of pleasure in their chosen careers:

On the good news front, our Articulated Planar Reformation (APR: remember it, use it, spread it) paper will be presented at IEEE Visualization 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah!  The citation is as follows:

P. Kok, M. Baiker, E.A. Hendriks, F.H. Post, J. Dijkstra, C.W. Löwik, B.P. Lelieveldt, and C.P. Botha, “Articulated Planar Reformation for Change Visualization in Small Animal Imaging,” IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2010.

It’s called a citation, because you should cite it. Often. :)

On the being-busy front, I, Captain Obvious, have recently realised that the reason I’m so busy at the moment, probably has to do with the fact that I have perhaps a few too many projects on my list! Looming and very serious deadlines are August 16,  August 27, August 30, September 15, September 16 and October 2.  These include papers and research proposals as well as the development and running of completely new undergrad and postgrad courses. Continuously feeling like a mole that has been tasked with digging a multi-lane highway through a mountain-range, I have been spending some time (not much, don’t worry) thinking about my method of working.  Once again, the most significant optimisation I could employ was minimising interruptions (facebook, twitter, email, damn email!!) and maximising periods of concentrated work. One measure that really helps is using an egg timer, real or virtual. Whilst the egg timer is counting down, you’re not allowed to touch or think about anything else besides the activity you’ve set for those 30 to 45 minutes. Once the timer goes, you have to spend 5 to 10 minutes goofing off, preferably away from the computer. If you sometimes wake up in a daze and notice that you’ve been facebooking away through the pre-lunch half-hour (20 new friends! yay! who are these people?!), the egg timer is for you!

This leads nicely to our final bit of backyard sociology, an issue that recently came up in discussions with my SO, TNR and TPN (see here for abbreviations): Which do you find the most suitable work approach, time-driven or output-driven?

In the time-driven approach, one goes to and leaves work at agreed-upon times, performing work up to some agreed-upon standard. However, when the day or the week ends, work really does too. One leaves the office, and, besides the normal mental after-effects, there is no expectation that one is going to spend time doing more work. In the output-driven approach, there is much less (or no) expectation as to the hours one will spend working.  In fact, in many cases, one is allowed to plan one’s work day as one pleases, even integrating brief stints at the beach if one’s schedule of meetings and other required physical presence so allows. However, one’s work output is measured, in terms of cases handled, papers written, students supervised, products delivered, and so forth. Even in cases where one has not taken any liberties, this often leads to work in the evenings and on the weekends.

Where I work, output-driven is the norm amongst the research staff members. It sounds like a really good deal, as one could in theory do all kinds of neat things in what is normally considered to be work-time.  In practice however, meetings, deadlines and achievement pressure all conspire to complicate capitalising on the perceived perks. In the end, days are full and evenings and weekends too. Mostly this is fine, as the type of work I do mostly overlaps with what I would consider my hobbies in any case and I can get all passionate about most of the projects I’m involved in. Also, the freedom can be exhilarating. Sometimes, however, I wonder what it would be like to leave the office on Friday and completely switch off the work part of my brain. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to spend a whole weekend thinking exclusively thoughts that have to do with family, friends and sun. Perhaps it’s got nothing to do with my job, and everything with my brain.

What do you think, time-driven or output-driven? Start-up people, what do you think about being able to switch off? Time-driven fans, care to chime in? You can let it all hang out in the comments!