Thursday, January 22, 2009


Work, work, work

Exhausted. Burned Out. Sick. My days start before 6 am and end after midnight. Demands in Shanghai, demands in the States. And the pressure to be all things to all people is unrelenting. I'm doing everything I can and it is still not enough-- for them, or for me.

No one who hasn't walked in these shoes can really understand what it's like. I've gone from having one body and 2 full time jobs to one body and 4 full time jobs - well, make that closer to 5- in incompatible time zones. Merchandising, SC, Services, Administrative stuff ..... And the demands for my time and help and just plain presence in a specific place at a specific time are simply overwhelming.

When I get home, all I want to do is have some silence and privacy. No e-mail, no people, no phones, no conference calls, no Skype.

Lord, I've come to hate Skype with a passion. I know it is a necessary evil, but it feels so intrusive. I get up at 5AM so that I can find a little time to work and think without interruption, and, because I'm a walking zombie from illness and exhuastion, I forget to change the default to "unavailable"-- and before I can write the first paragraph I have four "chats" and a phone call popping up because it is 3PM in the States and everyone wants to check in before they leave the office.

By the time I get all the Skype stuff answered and get back to what I got up early to do it's time to check my e-mail. Outlook here is a nightmare. It can take as much as 2 hours to get through the typical overnight volume of mail from work, and I have 2 other accounts to check- my Pittsburgh office account and my (gasp) personal mail. I connect to the client Outlook system and hit the shower while the mail trickles in. I wrap a towel around my hair while I sort the messages into "deal with this now," "deal with this later," and "I can't think about this right now." If the phone doesn't ring again while I'm trying to dress, I access the other 2 accounts while I do so. I still haven't written a paragraph of the work I got up early to get done.

I'm finally dressed and my hair is semi-dry, and I sit back down to write a little before breakfast. But I notice in my "deal with it now" e-mail that overnight, I've received 3 or 4 urgent meeting requests overnight from the states-- all before noon, because they are on the other side of the planet. OK, deal with that stuff.

By now I want to scream. But I'll settle for walking away from my electronic leash long enough to eat the only normal meal I'm going to get today. (Lunch, I know by now, will either be a pleasant but chaotic communal affair or something grabbed quickly and eaten enroute to somewhere. Dinner will either be very late, or soup and noodles in my room eaten with one hand while I type with the other.)

I take a book to breakfast, hoping to read a little and calm down while I eat-- but am typically joined by one or more of the folks from the project. So now I have to be social before caffeine. Not my finest hour of the day. I still haven't written anything.

I grab my laptop and head for the office. My first phone call of the day is the states. "When are we going to see the stuff you've written?" I resist the desire to put my fist through the screen. I reply as politely as I can, I'm working on it, but things are a little chaotic here. "You know you have due dates." Yes, I do, and as soon as I figure out how to manufacture some time and space and privacy to write, I will let myself think about how far behind I am.

I finally carve out a block of time to write. I finish something that's only about a week late. I try to upload it to the server so that people in 6 different time zones can read and approve it. THE FREAKING SERVER WON'T LET ME UPLOAD THE FILE. I break the file into smaller parts and try again. No such luck. I try to e-mail it. Have I mentioned that Outlook is a nightmare? No such luck. I've now wasted an hour and a half trying to get the completed file to the people who are waiting for it. In a fit of creativity, I pull out my credit card and buy some space on a commercial server , do a little notepad HTML coding, and voila! folks in five countries can now get the file. But that takes another hour I don't have.

This is insane.

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