Six Reasons Why We Don’t Need A Purpose in Life

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?  –Charles M. Schulz

Do we need a purpose in life?

Many so-called gurus would say yes.  We need to have one in order to have a direction.  A purpose gives rationale to our life.  A purpose gives each of us a unique reason for existence.  

Some of us, however, don’t have a clear purpose. If we were asked and if we answer in the negative, sometimes we would be chastised for not having one and the one asking would insist we have one and we should spend a considerable amount of time formulating one. 

Rather than wracking our brains finding a purpose, some of us plainly don’t need one for six (6) reasons:

First:  We’re not beholden to any person, group, or cause.

Some people say we should have a purpose and the people who usually say this are those who are looking for followers for their own causes.  Religious groups, for instance, have been notorious throughout history for preaching that we all have the purpose of being a follower of their god or gods.  If we follow them, we would be rewarded with eternal life and a place in heaven. Not following would doom us to hell or eternal punishment. 

Political activists also attempt to enroll individuals to their cause.  And similar to religious organizations, they would work hard to convince us to submission. 

Endless streaming of information in the internet age bombard us constantly about causes we should support, if not join.  We should fight climate change.  We should combat hunger.  We should help refugees.  We should change our lifestyle.  We should join a network to get rich.  The messages that pressure us go on and on. 

We aren’t beholden to anyone’s causes or dogma.  We don’t owe anyone anything in the first place.  We as individuals have the freedom to choose what we want or how we want to lead our lives (within the bounds of whatever rules at wherever we live in of course).  We also have the choice of whether we want to have a purpose or not.    

Second:  On the other hand, some of us are really meant to be followers.

Not all individuals are meant to be leaders.  Not all of us want to be leaders.  Some of us would just rather follow someone else. 

This doesn’t mean that we are enrolled mind and heart to the mission of someone else.  We follow because of the benefits. 

Many employees of businesses go to work because they simply need the money and the benefits that go with it.  We do what our bosses tell us to do and we nod when our employers preach about the business’s visions and ideals.  But when it’s time to go home, we leave all of that behind. 

Some of us join religious or political groups because we just want to meet friends.  Some of us like to join groups because there’s free food in meetings.  (I’m not kidding, I’ve met people who go to Sunday church services just because of the free food). 

Some of us join as followers because it makes for a better alternative than to have a purpose of one’s own.  Some people would say these people have nothing better to do.  I would say these people have chosen something they believe gives them the benefits they want.  They may not have their own direction but they did make their own choices.  And maybe that’s all that matters.

Third:  Not everything is certain.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  -John Lennon

There is nothing certain in life.  Tomorrow is another day.  We don’t know what will happen next year, the next day, or the next minute.

We believe in these principles but yet pro-purpose-in-life people still think we should have a rock-solid purpose to determine our direction. 

We can make a purpose that visualizes our values, principles, and goals, and we can write them down in one beautiful statement.  But all it would take is one swoop of reality to tear them all apart. 

Okay, a well-made purpose, according to the pro-purpose people, is supposed to act as an anchor against what life hurls at us.  It should form a foundation of where we stand in making decisions or when we are facing tests and temptations. 

But if we adopt a purpose just for the sake that we think we need one, chances are we would be tying ourselves down to stuff that we are not really interested in the first place. For example, if a person adopts a purpose to do social work for his local community, he might make himself too busy with obligations in his neighborhood that he’d have no more time to travel out of town which might be something he originally wanted to do.    

Fourth:  Life can be just as much fun acting on a whim than having to pursue a purpose

Many of us like to travel.  Some of us change careers every few years.  Some of us like to taste new food or appreciate art.  And some of us just want to escape and be left alone somewhere.   But we don’t do it because we say we are too busy or we don’t have the money.  Sometimes we say it’s because our parents won’t allow us even if we’re already 50 years old. 

We then adopt a purpose to try to define our own direction or escape route.  By experience, it doesn’t work.  No matter how desirable we make our dream via an adopted purpose, a purpose for the sake of finding a way out of our current life offers no respite from the realities we dread. 

We’re much better off acting sometimes on a whim.  I’ve known happy people, young and old, who travel without much planning.  I’ve known happy people who decide to learn a new craft, like pottery.  They sometimes do it with their children and it becomes a happier experience.  And I’ve known families who decide to drop everything out of the blue so they can go to the beach. 

Some people frown when we do things on a whim or for no rational reason.  Travelling for example several times out of the year can be criticized as spending too much time or money from what we should really be doing.  Critics would say we should be doing something more useful for society rather than just gallivant aimlessly around the world.

But being aimless is sometimes good for us. Going to other places, doing different things help us gain new experiences.  And if it makes us happier, then who cares?

Fifth:  Being aimless can lead us to success

A good friend of mine had no clear direction in her career.  She started out as a temporary worker.  Next thing I knew she was in Japan doing on-the-job training.  Someone liked her personality and hired her to come back home to sell software to banks.  After a couple of years, she moved to the United States to work as a web developer.  After another few years, she set up her own audio-visual production business.  Today she helps her local parish church and earns a living as a real estate broker. 

My friend is happy.  She met very good friends from Japan and the US.  She developed new skills and is presently gaining new ones as a real estate broker.  She finds fulfillment helping people at church.  And she is financially secure. 

She didn’t set any limits or boundaries to what she can do.  Her life’s path seemed aimless but that didn’t stop her from pursuing fulfillment by trying new things. 

Sixth: There is no need to be ambitious or that passionate.

Some of us just want peace of mind or are happy with what we have. Some of us just want a simple life without any complications or too many obligations. 

Being too passionate about a purpose can cause us to lose focus on the simpler things in life.  We’d be spending much time chasing something we think we believe in and less time smelling the flowers or just living well with what we have. 

We hear about executives who retire early so they can spend more time with their families.  Many people from Europe allocate weeks or months to travel to Asia and South America to see or experience new places. 

We also hear about ambitious managers who work very long hours to try to get that promotion at work.  Or that environmental activist who risks life and limb to defend a forest in the middle of nowhere. 

Being driven with ambition can actually be good especially if it will end up helping society but sometimes we just have to pause, take a break, and ask if it’s really worth it.  In some cases, it’s not. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying having a purpose is bad.  What I’m saying is we shouldn’t be pressured to have one because maybe we don’t really need one.  No matter what other people say, sometimes we can live without a purpose and still enjoy life and even help society at the same time. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Delegating is a Subset of Teamwork

The following are some lines I’ve heard bosses tell their subordinates when the latter are feeding back about difficulties in their jobs: 

  • “Be creative.”
  • “Just do it.”
  • “Don’t give me problems.”
  • “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”
  • “I can count on you.”
  • “That’s what I pay you for.”
  • “That’s what I hired you to do.”
  • “You have to be a team player.”

When bosses give responses like these, chances are they themselves have no clue on what to do.  Chances are too that these bosses don’t want to bother spending time helping their subordinates. 

Some bosses have the mindset that subordinates are nothing more than minions, followers on a payroll who are meant to do dirty work the bosses would rather not be doing. 

Bosses who think this way risk unfavourable repercussions. 

A middle-aged businessman thought he had a good life.  His packaging business was doing well.  He had long-term contracts with clients that assured steady revenue for succeeding years.  He had no problems procuring materials and his work force was productive as they met delivery targets to customers without fail.   

The businessman one day delegated most of the day-to-day administrative work to his accountant.  For many years after, he would hardly report to the office.  The accountant took care of everything. 

The accountant would occasionally ask the businessman to sign documents and checks, and report that all is well with the enterprise. 

The businessman would spend most days at a nearby cafe, sipping his favourite coffee, reading the newspaper, and chatting with friends.  The businessman had a steady source of income as the accountant would regularly deposit his salary to his bank account.  Life was good. 

One day, one of the businessman’s office staff reported that the bank called saying there was not enough money to fund one of the checks he signed.  The accountant was absent, so the businessman called the bank.  He found out that his cash balance at the bank was low.  He went to the office and found out most of the enterprise’s money was gone.  The accountant had fled, she apparently had been embezzling cash from the enterprise for years. 

The businessman had no cash to pay his workers and vendors.  The businessman had to lay off his workers, renegotiate debts, and cancel contracts with clients.  The businessman spent years afterward to rebuild his reputation and re-start his business from scratch.  To this day, the businessman goes to work every day to manage the day-to-day operations of his company, no longer entrusting money matters to anyone. 

It’s one thing to assign work to employees and trust them to be stewards of important tasks.  It’s another thing to assign work to employees and leave them on their own. 

Delegation is not about giving work to other people so the boss can relax and forget.  Delegation is about working together with employees to spread workloads to capable people for the sake of productivity and innovation.    

Delegation is a subset of teamwork.  Team leaders assign jobs but don’t leave the team.  When team leaders delegate, they work with team members.  Not so much in looking over their shoulders but more in communicating, responding to feedback, and helping secure needed resources.  It’s about entrusting employees to do important jobs and treating them as partners. 

When we treat employees not as minions but as partners, we not only boost productivity but we open doors for opportunities via new ideas that employees with their expertise and feedback would bring. 

We delegate not to evade work but to improve it. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Can’t Fight City Hall

Can’t fight city hall is an idiom for any futile effort against a large institution like government.  If you’re just one among millions of citizens who has a complaint about a government law or regulation, chances are you’d be unsuccessful, if not dismissed at the start. 

Paying taxes and fees to the Philippine government is an example where this idiom holds true.  No matter how much anyone would disagree with the rules, we’re compelled to comply.  Else we get slapped with penalties or worse, criminal litigation. 

Some experiences:

  • The Philippine Land Transport Office (LTO), the agency that oversees automobile transportation, just let out new rules for motorists renewing their driver’s licenses.  The applying motorist has to watch a five (5) hour streaming video and then take a test before he or she could go to the nearest LTO office to do the renewal of license.  Many people have protested against the new rules but it looks like the LTO won’t budge.  Many have resigned to watching the five (5) hours and taking the test otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get their renewed licenses; 
  • The Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue audited and assessed a small enterprise for additional taxes and penalties.  Despite presenting all the paperwork requested, the BIR disallowed a significant portion of expenses the enterprise claimed for deductions.  As much as the enterprise’s accountant tried to explain that the expenses were legitimate and that some of the BIR’s tax computations were wrong, the BIR pressed the enterprise to pay a large penalty.  The enterprise owners decided to pay up rather than go through a lengthy legal fight;
  • A city government’s Idle Land Tax division assessed a property owner for unpaid “idle land taxes.”  The city notified the owner that he didn’t pay the idle land tax for the past ten (10) years.  (The idle land tax is a surcharge for land that has no improvements or is unused). When the property owner met with the Idle Land Tax supervisor, he explained that he has been going to the city hall’s Land Tax office every year to get a tax assessment of his properties but not once has he received a bill for idle land tax.  The Idle Land Tax supervisor replied that was because the Idle Land Tax office is separate from the Land Tax office and that the property owner should have gone to the former to get the assessment.  The property owner asked how come the Idle Land Tax assessment was separate from the ones from the Land Tax?  The Idle Land Tax supervisor said that was because the computer system integrating both offices hadn’t been set up then (never mind that both offices sits side by side each other).  The property owner fully paid the Idle Land Tax. 

Government bureaucrats argue that it is the duty of citizens to find out for themselves how much taxes they owe.  Ignorance cannot be an excuse. 

There are literally millions of ordinary people, small business proprietors & enterprises who had gone through similar experiences.  Government sets a rule, slaps taxes & fees, citizens grumble & complain about the inefficiencies, the lack of logic, the unjustified amount, and/or the poor service.  But we end up complying & paying. 

As the Borg would say:  resistance is futile.

About Overtimers Anonymous

The Death Industry’s Supply Chain

Dying is a complicated business.  No one really plans for it in advance.  For those who are charged with the affairs of the ones who pass away, there is always so much to do and limited time to do so.

Funeral service providers have become more than just parlours where proprietors prepare the deceased for burial.  They have evolved into invaluable assistants in helping bereaved families retrieve the remains of loved ones from the hospitals, prepare legal documents, and make available facilities for relatives and friends to get together. 

Many funeral providers also offer cremation services, which instead of burial, the deceased’s remains are burned and the ashes placed into urns or vessels.  Families would then inter the urns in niches at a columbarium, the final resting place for cremated remains often located at the grounds of religious churches. 

Cremation has become a popular option due mainly to economic reasons if not for the expediency it provides.  Many families do still opt for the traditional interment of late loved ones at cemeteries and funeral providers do help in the paperwork and burial assistance.

Cemeteries and columbaries are typically separate entities that funeral providers and the bereaved of the deceased deal with.  On top of needs such as urns and coffins, funeral providers also procure materials (e.g. chemicals) for the preparation of the remains either for cremation or burial.  They also supply paraphernalia, such as flowers, guest books, cards, and placeholders.  In some Asian countries, these paraphernalia include banners, streamers, incense, ceremonial clothing, and paper money.

The business of sending off the dead is a complicated one that requires a supportive supply chain. 

Demand first of all is not certain.  The dying do not arrive in steady predictable numbers one day to the next.  Funeral service workers may be idle one week with few arrivals only to find themselves working overtime the next due to a surge. 

A friend of mine who works in the funeral business says that arrivals are few in number usually before Christmas but many towards the end of a calendar year.  “It’s as if those close to death are scheduling when they will go,” she said. 

Funeral providers by experience keep stock of coffins and urns in anticipation of those surges but they sometimes still run out.  Coffin makers would always be busy even if their market share has dwindled due to the growing preference for cremation and urns.  Churches and private groups have invested increasingly in constructing columbaries to make available more niches.  And funeral supply shops always make sure they have enough paraphernalia for the traditional rituals families would hold for their departed loved ones. 

During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to 2021, funeral providers were challenged.  Health protocols forced the temporary closure of chapels but caused a spike in demand for cremation. 

Funeral providers who already had cremation facilities didn’t feel fortunate; they had limited capacity on how many can be served in any one day.  Service crews were also not allowed to report to work every day to avoid risk of infection. 

The queues for cremation grew as a result and so did the demand for coffins to temporarily safe-keep remains while they waited their turn.  This surprised the coffin makers who believed their businesses were becoming a sunset industry.  They found themselves busy when they thought they would no longer be needed. 

Funeral providers lengthened operating times to accommodate the continuous arrivals.  They did so carefully.  Cremation furnaces needed to cool off and rest for at least a few hours a day.  And one cannot speed up the burning.  The process had standards to follow to ensure completion and thoroughness. 

What funeral providers gained in cremation revenue, they lost in the drop in the demand for venues and paraphernalia.   But for my friends in the funeral business, that didn’t matter.  As the pandemic raged on, they found no time to reflect. 

The dead just kept coming.  They had to keep on working. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

There’s Air Up There

The scuba dive instructor was teaching us first-time divers what to do if we run out of air underwater.  He pointed his finger to the sky and said, “Go up! There’s plenty of air up there.” 

It does not deserve any thought.  If we scuba divers run out of air underwater, we simply go up to the surface where there’s plenty of air. 

But the dive instructor wasn’t finished. 

“When you run out of air and your dive buddy is not there to help you, you do an emergency ascent to the surface.  You take off your weight belt and push upward with your flippers.  Exhale air as you go up to unload pressure from your lungs.  Right before you reach the surface, you quickly turn your body such that it’s parallel to the surface and pause for a few seconds. This is known as a “flash” and it allows your body to minimise any side effects from the sudden change in pressure.”

Scuba dive instructors teach several options when divers face low air or out-of-air scenarios.  The emergency ascent is just one of them.  But all are based on common sense:  when out of air, go up to where there’s lot of air

When we find ourselves in an emergency or under immediate threat, common sense is often the best place to start. 

When there’s a fire, we run to escape the flames and smoke.

When there’s an earthquake, we duck for cover if we’re indoors.  Outdoors, we run away from nearby electric posts or buildings. 

When there’s rising flood waters or an oncoming tsunami, we run to higher ground or climb to the second floor or roof of a building. 

It’s what we do afterward, however, that finally determine our fates. 

After escaping from a fire, do we run back in to save valuables or look for any loved ones we might have left behind?  Do we try to put out the fire ourselves? 

Do we go back in to the building we went out from after an earthquake? 

Do we stay on the roofs of our houses as flood waters rise or do we jump into the water to swim to higher ground?

It is here, the second thing after we did the first, that we sometimes run into conflict with our common sense.  This is where we need guidance or education. 

Experienced emergency management professionals always teach us to always stay calm in the face of threat.  And they teach us to be aware of standard steps depending on the emergency. 

Running from a fire, for example, is always the most sensible first thing to do.  The second thing, fire safety officers teach, however, is to alert others that there is a fire.  In short, sound the alarm.  The idea is for others to know there’s a fire so that those who do not know there’s a threat can escape and those like a nearby fire brigade can come fight the fire.   

Firefighters also can teach us how to operate fire extinguishers and fire hoses so we’d know what to do if we were to try putting out fires.  But first things first, when there’s a fire, get out of danger, that is, escape.  Second thing:  sound the alarm.  And only then can one perhaps think about fighting the fire. 

Safety is first about common sense but it comes together with some horse sense, that is, knowledge on top of what is obvious.  Scuba dive instructors teach us the obvious:  go up when you need air.  But they also teach us the knowledge of how to go up to get air in the safest way possible.  Take off the weight belt to lighten the body, exhale to regulate pressure, and flash to minimise the sudden change in pressure at the surface. 

When we face dire threats, we sometimes react too quickly without thinking.  Common sense is important but it can go only so far.  Education in handling emergencies as taught by professionals and experts are just as vital in making sure we and the people we value come out safe at the end. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

The First Step is Always the Hardest

It’s hard to just get started.

It’s hard sometimes to wake myself up in the morning to work out despite the fact that I told myself I will and that I even set the alarm to make sure.  And when the alarm sounds, I find myself questioning whether to really go through with it. 

I find excuses.  My back aches.  It’s cloudy and might rain.  It’s too cold.  It’s maybe better to use the time to work on my business report.  Etcetera.  Etcetera. 

But once I realise that I’d lose that precious time slot I invested for my morning exercise, I decide (sometimes with difficulty) to get up, suit up, and do my workout. 

Once I’ve lifted that barbell and start to break a sweat, I find myself feeling good that I had decided to push through with the morning exercise. 

It happens a lot of time to us.  Just getting started is always the hardest part.  But once we’re into it, there is momentum.  It becomes easier to finish a job as we get deeper into it. 

A journey of a thousand miles indeed begins with the first step.  And the first step is always the hardest.  Whether it be a simple job or a long trip, we find it often hard just to get started.

This is because a journey’s first step isn’t really that one foot out the door.  A first step begins with writing a plan, packing that suitcase, or in my example of my morning work-out, getting out of bed. 

For several years, my relatives have talked about travelling to Spain and taking that long hike to the Santiago de Compostela

The Santiago de Compostela is a cathedral located in the city named after it.  It is the reputed burial site of St. James, one of the Twelve (12) Apostles of Jesus Christ.  The Santiago de Compostela has been a famous destination for Catholic pilgrims and tourists especially those who took the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, a network of walking trails that lead to the cathedral. 

Many who have taken the walking route found it very much worth it.  Plenty of scenery. Fresh air.  Good exercise.  Staying overnight at inns and sampling the local Spanish Galician cuisine.  And finally seeing that majestic cathedral at the end of the trail.  The awesome baroque cathedral that takes away the breath of many who see it the first time. 

A pilgrim along the norther route of the Camino de Santiago
The Cathedral of Santiago de Composela

The traditional route favoured by die-hard travellers is the French Way which goes as far as 800 kilometres and would take several days even for the fastest walkers.  Tourists usually opt for the much shorter routes although in order to secure a certificate of pilgrimage, one has to at least walk a hundred (100) kilometres. 

But as I and relatives have talked about taking the trip.  It so far has been just that: talk.  We haven’t taken any first step, which isn’t that first footstep on the trail but just getting to making an itinerary, booking a flight, or deciding which of the walking journeys to take.

Whether it be a daily morning work-out, an 800-kilometre hike like the Camino de Santiago, or a job we have to do at work or at home, we don’t get anywhere unless we make that first step.  It’s not deciding that we’ll do it.  It’s not telling ourselves we will do it.  And it isn’t that first footstep or that first lift of a barbell.  It’s the execution, the act itself that matters. 

It’s getting out of bed, booking that reservation, making that phone call, and finally getting to work that constitute those very first steps to whatever we intend to do. 

It’s hard to get started.  But we won’t regret it when we do. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Automated Queuing Systems Don’t Reduce Waiting Times

A large bank installed an automated queuing system at its branches.  Clients were required to enter the details of their transactions on a terminal and receive a queuing number and then wait to be called by the teller via a display on a video screen. 

The system replaced the previous process of clients writing on paper transaction slips and proceeding to the tellers.   Instead, the teller would access and process the client’s transaction from the entry of transaction data into the terminal. 

With the automated queuing system, the teller no longer has to input data from the previous handwritten transaction slips.  The teller also no longer has to decipher the penmanship of individual clients from the transaction slips.  Errors and rework are eliminated.  The teller just has to take and confirm the cash or checks the client is giving or just has to count the cash the client is withdrawing.  The time to process the transaction was thereby reduced.

But was the process time really significantly reduced?  Did the system really improve the client’s experience, or specifically, did it reduce the client’s time at the bank? 

Queuing systems have become the norm among banks.  But the system varies from one bank to the next.  Most of the differences between banks are in the user interface, which consists of the design and manner of layout of buttons and sequence of steps in how data would be entered into a remote terminal.

Some banks also offer the feature in which clients can access the queuing system online from their smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers before going to the bank’s branch.  A client either receives a QR code or a transaction number which he or she then presents at the bank.  The client is then given an queuing number which is usually for a line exclusive to those who did the input online. 

For the walk-in clients who had to input data into a terminal, I didn’t see much difference in their waiting times whatever bank they went to.  For some, especially those who aren’t what people call tech-savvy, it got worse.  They would almost always require assistance from a nearby employee or even the security guard.  When there were plenty of clients, such as on Mondays, Fridays, payroll days (i.e. mid- and end-month), and tax filing deadlines, the waiting times would surge to more than an hour.  Fewer tellers during the day would aggravate the waits of clients. 

I also didn’t see much difference in the productivity of tellers despite the elimination of hand-written transaction slips.  Tellers still had to count cash and examine checks which made up most of the transaction time.  Tellers also had to print out the client’s transaction receipts or withdrawal confirmations.  When the system sometimes ran slow or hangs, any productivity gained is wiped out. 

The less tech-savvy clients also sometimes don’t take advantage of the queuing system’s feature to bundle transactions under one queuing number.  Some clients would enter one transaction for one queuing number at a time as they had been used to do with hand-written transaction slips.  The less tech-savvy clients would then have a handful of queuing numbers which adds to the queue to the tellers and lengthens the teller’s time to process as she’d be going through the client’s queue numbers one by one.

The tech-savvy clients have a slight advantage as they usually are assigned an exclusive line separate from the walk-ins.  In some banks, they can go straight to the teller, show their QR codes or online numbers and have their transactions done right away.  But in many cases, tech-savvy clients still had to wait.  Tellers would often be busy with clients at the time the tech-savvy clients arrive.  In some banks, they’d still be required to register at a terminal to get a queuing number and there’d be a waiting line there too. 

Automated queuing systems by themselves don’t reduce waiting or process times.  As much as the system may make it more convenient for clients and efficient for tellers, it addresses only a part of the process. 

Queues and how long they will be and how long one will wait are determined not only by the length it takes do a process but also by the number of processors (i.e. tellers) and by the behaviour of arrivals (i.e. how many clients arrive at a given time and how many transactions they are bringing).

A state-of-the-art automated system can only do so much.  If banks are serious about improving productivity for tellers and clients, they should take a harder look at the steps and gather information about the volume of transactions done at their branches. 

And when I say steps and information, I mean all the steps and all the information that would be involved.  Targeting one step at a time does not improve productivity; one has to target the entire process from beginning to end and identify the factors that influence all of it. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Being Proactive Requires Reviewing Our Values

My boss asked me to finish a report by Monday morning.  I was planning to submit it by Wednesday next week but my boss wanted it earlier.  Because he asked me on Friday, I had to cancel my weekend plans. 

Some bosses pile on work on their employees.  The bosses would believe there is good reason but they also would believe they aren’t beholden to explain deadlines to their subordinates.  Bosses dictate, employees follow, after all. 

Employees, however, are people too and it can be demoralising when the boss deems work more important than the quality time of employees after work hours. 

So, what can employees do? 

Either the employees just do what the bosses say or they don’t.  If they do, they can count on some praising like a pat-on-the-back assuming they did a good job.  If they don’t, they’ll risk getting on the bad side of the boss who would put a bad mark on an employee’s performance record which may lead to career stagnation. 

Not really much of a choice.  But that’s reality. 

Never mind what some consultants or so-called gurus may say, people who work for other people don’t own their time.   When we have bosses, the bosses own us and sometimes if not often, they own even our time after work hours.

This is because work for many people, like middle managers and office workers, as we know it no longer is limited to a fixed schedule.  With email, SMS texting, and Internet-enabled voice & chat technologies, the boss can communicate with her employees wherever they may be and at anytime.  (I had a boss who’d call me when I was halfway around the world on vacation and that was even before the Internet). 

But thanks also to the Internet, we have more access to more information.  We can find out if there are other jobs waiting for us in other companies.  We can submit our curricula vitae (CV) with a few clicks of a mouse.  And we can get interviewed long distances from the comforts of our own home (or office desk when the boss isn’t around). 

The hard part, of course, is writing the CV and preparing for the interview.  The harder part is deciding whether we’d want to change careers in the first place. 

The hardest part, however, is making the choice itself.  We’d wrack our brains thinking if we should stay in our jobs or move on to greener pastures. 

It isn’t just about the risks of what we choose but it’s also what we believe in. 

This is what being proactive is really about.  Proactive is choosing based on what we value.  Note it isn’t what we want, it is what we value.  Stephen Covey of Seven (7) Habits fame identifies being proactive as the freedom to choose one’s response.  But to choose what we believe is right, we should choose based on what’s important for us, which is in a nutshell are our values

Employees would opt to stick with a job with a slave-driver boss that deprives weekends off because the employees would value the job security and income needed for their families. 

An employee, however, may choose to quit because she values her time with her children more than anything else. 

But as much as it may be clear to some, it can be a lengthy exercise for many who haven’t really defined what they value or are in self-conflict with changes in what are important to them. 

As the PlanPlus Online website puts it, values “may change as demands or needs change.” 

“If a given belief or opinion is something that might be altered if the conditions are right, then it’s a value.”

-PlanPlus Online, The Difference Between Principles and Values, https://www.planplusonline.com/difference-principles-values/

When values become moving targets, we can become confused and that can make it difficult to decide things.  We therefore sometimes become dependent on others to make our minds up, like just doing what the boss tells us to do. 

Values are based on beliefs, opinions, causes, and/or the very stuff we put the highest importance on, such as our families, relationships, careers, and religions.  We often try to rank them and doing so can be a difficult process, not to mention frustrating.  The bottom line is we always are evaluating what our priorities are. 

Is there a best way to define our values?  No.  But the question maybe should be:  how often should we define our values?  Not everybody knows what he or she wants.  Lucky for those who do but there are many who constantly need to review what’s important.  Actually, it may be those who do it often are the luckier ones because they would always be updated to their versions of their value systems. 

When we know surely what we think or feel what’s important, we’d know how to choose confidently.  We end up knowing how to answer when a boss asks us to work on weekends. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

The Devil is in The Details

I was reading the San Jose Mercury News one morning while staying with my brother during a visit some years ago at San Mateo, California, USA and I noticed that the front page of the paper featured a repair of a road culvert. 

The culvert, a canal by the side of a main thoroughfare, was eroding and needed repair.  The news article talked about what the engineers assigned to the repair job were going to do and it included a schedule of when a lane of the road would be closed. 

It was fascinating that a big city newspaper like the San Jose Mercury News would put a story about a problematic road culvert as its main headline for the day, much bigger than other national and international news. 

I then thought, “Why not?”  Why not showcase what the local government is doing about roadwork and how it would affect those who live in or near San Jose City who in the first place probably make up the majority of readers and subscribers to the newspaper. 

And why not write in-depth about the roadwork so that people will know the details, such as what’s the roadwork timetable and how it may affect traffic in the area? 

The devil after all is in the details. 

The idiom, the devil is in the details, points out the need to take into account the nitty-gritties of a plan or solution.  It describes what happens when we find it harder than we thought to implement an idea or execute a strategy. 

Some enterprise executives decide on solutions without considering the ramifications.  They would say they did especially if a task force that recommended the solution studied a lot about it. But given the fact we live in a complex world, there would often be something left out, something that the executives and managers didn’t expect.

When the Coca-Cola Company attempted to reformulate their flagship soda in the 1985, many consumers complained and rebelled.  Coca-Cola had done a taste test study that showed consumer receptiveness to the new formula but they didn’t ask consumers whether they’d buy it.  The new formula was a failure and Coca-Cola revived the old formula by calling it “classic.” 

When a multinational food corporation changed the plastic lids of its margarine containers to a cheaper material, it didn’t foresee how fragile the lids would be on the production line.  Many lids broke during packing such that the productivity losses overrode the cost savings.  The product research group who tested the lids ignored workers’ comments about the breaking lids, and instead passed the problem to manufacturing management. 

What the devil is in the details teaches us is that for every initiative we start, we should pay attention to the nitty-gritties that would be involved. 

A lot of times it has to do with logistics; 

  • A purchaser would buy tons of a commodity to avail of a bulk discount but doesn’t realise there’s no more space in the warehouse;
  • A wholesaler offers discounts for customers who buy at least a million dollars of goods a month but it turns out there aren’t enough delivery trucks when orders come in on the last day of the month;
  • A manufacturing executive directs a production line to run on three shifts to build up inventories of finished product but finds out aren’t enough pallets to store the items at the warehouse;
  • A laboratory manager requisitions for state-of-the-art testing equipment but doesn’t stock up on the imported reagents needed for the testing procedure that comes with the new machine, which results in delays in releasing products for shipment. 

Details always start small but mushroom into big issues when they are not addressed.  Experienced executives don’t ignore details and embed themselves into the issues before they get out of hand.   They take control and put things in control. 

No one has demonstrated this more than Amancio Ortega, the founder of Inditex, the brand behind Zara, which has 1,854 stores in 96 countries.  Despite being a multi-billionaire and retired, Ortega “has never bothered with an office.”  He “prefers to sit on the floor of Zara’s women’s department.” His daughter, Ortega Perez, who has emerged as an active Zara executive, emulates her father’s hands-on management style.  Ms. Perez, just like her father, very much manages the details of the business.  

It’s easy to have ideas.  It’s another thing to make them come true. 

Because the devil is in the details. 

 About Overtimers Anonymous

We Need Librarians More Than Ever

How relevant are librarians in the 21st century?

In the 1970’s, when I was much younger, a library was that room of stand-alone shelves filled with books, spaced by a few tables and chairs.  The librarian was the one minding that room, making sure we who visited kept quiet while we browsed through the titles for one that maybe we’d borrow using our then library card. 

We don’t hear much about libraries and librarians in the 21st century.  If we do, a library would perhaps be that data collection on our desktop computer.  Or someone may describe a “library” as that dark section of the old family house where old books and documents of great-grandparents are kept. 

Libraries and librarians have changed in the mindsets of many people.  But contrary to what many may think, we actually need them more than ever. 

In a USA Today article written in November 2017, Careers: 8 jobs that won’t exist in 2030, Michael Hoon of the Job Network wrote that “you’ll have a tough time finding a job if you decide to become a librarian.”  Mr. Hoon cites “many schools and universities are already moving their libraries off the shelves and onto the Internet,” arguing that “as books fall out of favour, libraries are not as popular as they once were.”

Steve Barker in his opinion piece on the Wall Street Journal dated January 10, 2016, was blunt in that he called librarians “a dying breed.” 

Library and Information Science students Samantha Mairson (LIS) and Allison Keough of the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, immediately responded to Michael Hoon with their article of rebuttal, Are Librarians Truly a Dying Breed?

In their response, Mmes. Mairson & Keough write:

“Librarianship is far from a ‘dead-end field’ or a ‘dying profession.’ The field is transforming rapidly. Librarians and library students are leading this transformation. Library professionals are careful to consider the needs of their communities. The ‘Information Age’ needs more professionals responsibly curating information, and hiring managers agree that there’s demand.”

Sari Feldman, then President of the American Library Association (ALA), responded meanwhile to Steve Barker’s article by arguing that “nothing could be further from the truth.”  She writes:

“At a time of information overload and growing gaps between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the roles for dynamic and engaged librarians are growing. Though their skills and the technologies they use may be changing, they have never been more valuable to people of all ages, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.”

In the Philippines where I live and work, people identify libraries as that repository of books at a school or university.  Many don’t associate a library as an emerging essential function for enterprises, which we should. 

Many enterprises the world over have adopted standards from ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, an independent non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Switzerland.  

A popular one is ISO 9000, a family of standards for quality management systems that helps enterprises assure their products and services meet customer requirements. 

Whereas ISO 9000 sets principles in how quality management systems are established, the organisation’s trained consultants and auditors place much emphasis on documentation and records management.  Many enterprises around the world have gone to the extent of hiring librarians to oversee documents and records, not only in how they are filed, but also how they are created, edited, approved, and shared.  

In short, libraries are important for managing enterprise records thoroughly. 

As a treasurer for three (3) buildings, I have always advised respective administrative managers to organise records and documents.  These consist not only of accounting transaction records but also files of board resolutions, certificates, other important legal documents, and engineering & maintenance records. 

Building managers, however, don’t put too much priority on records management.  Whenever I inquire about a past record, for instance, I always get answers that they can’t find the documents because they’re buried in an archive in a basement closet.  It would take the administrative staff a week to dig and find something from the past, if they ever find it at all. 

Whenever I do insist that records be scanned and filed properly, building staff would go on overtime to catch up.  The building always needs to spend extra just to file and scan records and, in most cases, the records still wouldn’t be organised. 

Records management is a very much neglected function.  A good many enterprises just don’t manage records very well.  Memos, invoices, reports, and purchase requisitions that are often scattered, dirty, and torn have become common sights in many firms. 

We underestimate the value of library science when it comes to records management.  Thanks to technology, librarians have the means to scan and classify records quickly such that we can search and retrieve them much faster than ever before.

Librarians are the experts of organisation.  With reasonable support such as investing in desktop computers, scanners, and software, a librarian can turn that mess of papers and files into a systematic virtual storehouse of archives in which we can easily seek that particular document no matter how long ago it originated. 

In this age of information and the perpetual need to simplify complex transactions, we need librarians more than ever. 

About Overtimers Anonymous