Managing Time Management

The deadline was fast approaching. In 24 hours I would have to present my report on the correlation between budget shortfalls and middle manager suicides. I still had 15 slides to create, and just couldn’t create the image I needed of a man in a suit jumping off the descending end of a line graph.
And that wasn’t all. The Sith Lords were on the verge of crushing the Jedi, and I would soon have to choose between the light side or the dark.
At that very moment my boss entered the cubicle (speak of the dark side of the force). I Alt-Tabbed to PowerPoint, spun around to face him, and smiled with all the sincerity of a cat with a goldfish in its mouth.
“George,” he said, “we want to use you for a little experiment.” I tensed up, but I needn’t have worried; this time they weren’t going to try exchanging my brain with a monkey’s. “Ralph from IS here is going to install a new program on your computer, TimeTattler 2. It will efficientize and productivitize your workday throughput by maximizing buzzword usage—No, that was last week. By tracking how much time you spend on any particular application.”
“Of course,” I said, wondering how I was going to hide Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords from the IS geek looking hungrily at my PC. “Should I reformat the hard drive, first?”
Big Software is Watching You
The answer was “No.” I was shooed away for twenty minutes. When I returned, Ralph, the IS geek, was just rebooting. “All yours,” he said cheerily as he got up. “And by the way, you really can’t trust Darth Sion.”
I sat down and checked my e-mail. There was a long message from my wife. We needed to make an appointment to meet with the school counselor to discuss little Elmer’s tendency to talk out of turn in class—usually correcting the teacher.
I was about to click the Reply button when a message box popped up onscreen. “You have spent the last 3 minutes and 14.834 seconds in a non-business-related activity. Click the ‘I Apologize’ button to avoid trouble.”
I clicked the button and the message box disappeared, along with the window displaying my wife’s e-mail. I brought it up again and up came another TimeTattler 2005 message box: “You have attempted to return to a non-business-related activity for which you have already been digitally reprimanded. Click the ‘I Humbly Apologize’ button or I’m going to tell on you!”
I clicked the button and another message appeared: “Too late.”
“George!” It was my boss, suddenly at the cubicle entrance. I turned around and was relieved to see that he was all smiles. “This TimeTattler program is fantastic! It reported to me right away that you were reading e-mail from your wife, and even gave me the text of both the message and your likely answer. Isn’t that wonderful?! If you do that again, you’re fired.”
He walked cheerfully away.
I loaded my presentation into PowerPoint, clicked a few buttons, and phoned my wife. I was leaving a message on her voicemail when TimeTattler popped up another message: “You have not used your keyboard or mouse in 20 seconds. I must therefore assume that you are making a personal phone call. Click the ‘I Humbly Apologize While Groveling on the Floor and Kissing Your Virtual, Non-Existent Toes.'”
This time I clicked quickly, then returned to my slide. But I was stuck. I didn’t have all the facts necessary to make an informed judgment about cause and effect. Were managers killing themselves because sales were down, or did their deaths somehow suppress sales?
Enforcement
I was sitting in front of the PC, contemplating this problem, when my PC’s speakers went off like a police siren and TimeTattler put up another message: “You’ve had it, buster!” There was no Apology option this time, just OK and a button with language I can’t repeat here. Soon my boss appeared, followed by representatives of IP, Personnel, and the Fumigation Department. No one was smiling. “Okay, George, explain yourself!”
“I was working on my presentation,” I exclaimed, “and I stopped to think about…”
“Think?! I hired you to evaluate our situation and make recommendations, not think!
“Your time with us is over,” he continued. “I’m going back to my office to fill out your termination papers—just as soon as I’ve finished going over the latest sales figures.”
That was the last I ever saw of him alive.
The advantage of a dead boss, aside from not getting fired, is that you get to go home early. “Take the rest of the day off,” the Personnel Director told us. “Relax, enjoy yourself, appreciate life, and be sure to take your work home.”
As I left my office, Ralph from IS handed me a CD. “TimeTattler 2005,” he told me. “So you can work more efficiently at home.” As soon as I got home, I booted my PC and put the TimeTattler CD to good use—as a coaster. It must have helped; an hour later the presentation was done.
The next day, my presentation went off without a hitch (and, more impressively, without a suicide). In fact, the company heads were so impressed that they offered me my old boss’ job. I declined.
Now, life is good. My new boss is a very nice, deeply depressed alcoholic. Little Elmer is keeping his mouth shut. And TimeTattler 2005? It no longer bothers me. I simply changed The Sith Lords’ file name to powerpnt.exe.

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