Work Avoided Through Extensive List-Making

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Vol 37 Issue 17

New Dog Sick Of Being Compared To Old One

PRESTON, MO–Patches, the Layden family's new dog, expressed frustration Monday over the constant comparisons to his predecessor, who died in February. "No matter what I do, I can't escape the long shadow cast by Sneakers," the five-month-old Patches said. "I go for a walk, I hear about the way Sneakers went for walks. I chew on the rug, I hear about the way Sneakers chewed on rugs. They need to realize that I can't be Sneakers."

Guy On Racetrack P.A. Sounds A Little Depressed Today

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY–Gordon Asheton, public-address announcer at Saratoga Racetrack, seemed a bit distant Monday, track regular Brad Herman reported. "Usually, [Asheton]'s totally enthusiastic, firing up the crowd," Herman said. "But today, after he said, 'And they're off,' there was kind of a pause and a heavy sigh before he gave the running order. When he announced Daddy's Little Prizefighter as the winner, he barely seemed to care. I hope everything's okay at home."

Health-Food-Store Worker Dies Of Vitamin Lung

SAUSALITO, CA–Duane Cristopher, longtime manager of the Brooks Street Health Food Co-op, died Sunday following a three-month battle with vitamin lung. "Decades of inhaling a trace dust of vitamin supplements caused particles to accumulate over time in his lungs, ultimately cutting off his oxygen supply," said Dr. Arthur Washington, Christopher's physician. "We also suspect bee pollen may have been a factor." At Christopher's funeral Tuesday, family and friends commented admiringly on how natural the 57-year-old's body looked.

Man Nods Knowingly At Mechanic

GREENSBORO, NC–Attempting to conceal his ignorance of car repair, area resident Dave Snell, 39, nodded knowingly Monday as mechanic Bill Kreuter explained the precise nature of Snell's automotive problem. "He was telling me that the car had, like, a faulty alternator plug," Snell said. "So, you know, that's something that definitely needs to be fixed." Snell said his risky bluff almost backfired when Kreuter asked him how he gaps his plugs, to which Snell responded, "About the usual amount."

Child Lies For Parents' Own Good

CONCORD, NH–Area 9-year-old Andrew Mota lied to his parents Monday, telling them that he was at the park after school and sparing them the unpleasant truth that he was setting off fireworks at the quarry with friends. "[Parents] Patrick and Adrienne are very fragile emotionally," Mota said. "Telling them something like that would only cause them undue stress." He added that he may tell them one day when he is older.

North Dakota Drinks Itself To Sleep Again

BISMARCK, ND–Exhausted from another hard day in the wheat fields, the state of North Dakota drank itself to sleep Monday with the bottle of Old Thompson it keeps hidden in Fargo. "Oh, they've been doing this a lot lately," South Dakota Gov. William Janklow said. "Every night, they fall asleep on their respective couches with the local TV stations on all night." Janklow expressed concern about waking the state, as North Dakota is known for its violent outbursts when hung over.

Beer Commercials Aren't What They Used To Be

In these modern times, the concept of workmanship, of taking pride in one's craft, has gone the way of Nagel paintings, the Thompson Twins, and Vision Street Wear. And nowhere is this more evident than in the sorry state of our beer commercials.

Kerrey's Secret Shame

Last week, former senator Bob Kerrey admitted that a raid he led in the Vietnam War resulted in the deaths of at least 13 unarmed women and children. What do you think?
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Work Avoided Through Extensive List-Making

FORT WAYNE, IN–Julie Smalley, a 43-year-old Fort Wayne-area office manager, avoided completing any work whatsoever Monday, when she spent a majority of the day composing to-do lists.

Listmaker Julie Smalley.

"I've got a stack of mail up to here, I need to get the new schedule out by Wednesday, and department supervisors are breaking down my door for my signature," said Smalley, sitting at her desk at One World, a mail-order retailer of maps and other travel-related goods. "That's why I knew I had to lock myself in my office today, put my nose to the grindstone, and draw up a detailed list of all the things I need to do."

Upon arriving at the office at 8 a.m., Smalley got right to avoiding work, drawing up an extensive list of everything that needed to be accomplished. Among the pressing tasks she itemized: scheduling a meeting with One World promotions director Terry Connell, processing the stack of employee-reimbursement requests, and locating previous to-do lists and transferring any still-uncompleted items to the new list.

"I was supposed to get together with [coworker] John [Tribley] to finalize some prices for the new catalog, but I canceled because I have so much to do," Smalley said. "That went straight to the top of my list: 'Re-schedule meeting with John T. re: catalog prices.'"

Smalley's list was meticulously arranged, its more detailed tasks subdivided into numerous line items. Instead of simply writing a reminder to speak to the company's three department supervisors about hiring new employees, Smalley listed separately, "Talk to Sarah W. re: hiring," "Talk to Roger M. re: hiring," and "Talk to Howard B. re: hiring."

"I have my own little notation system to help me make sense of everything," Smalley continued. "I add an exclamation point next to especially important items, a question mark next to things I'm only considering doing, and a star next to things I should do as soon as possible. Next to some of the starred items, I also write ASAP. Or, if it's a phone call I need to make, I sometimes draw a little phone. But, if there are too many phone calls, I make a separate 'Phone calls to make' list."

A recent Smalley to-do list.

Several of the list's items were cross-referenced to other lists. One such list detailed 32 tasks for planning the company's summer picnic, including number 16, "Look up different caterers in phone book," number 17, "Decide which caterer to use," and number 18, "Call caterer (see list 5B)."

After completing her extensive list, Smalley went to the employee lounge, where she discussed the chaotic state of the office with coworkers.

"They gave me great suggestions for things that needed to be done," Smalley said. "I went back to my office and worked them into a list called 'Long-Term Company Goals.' I plan to turn that into an animated PowerPoint slide presentation we can show at our next organizational meeting, time permitting."

Smalley then did more near-work, sending e-mails to various coworkers promising she would send longer, more detailed responses to their previous e-mails when she had time. She also addressed envelopes for several letters she needs to write.

"Figuring out everything that needs to be done in the office made me realize we really have to step up the level of productivity here at One World," Smalley said. "I was so concerned about that, I spent the rest of the afternoon online, checking out the different incentives that successful companies use to motivate employees."

Besides her main list, Smalley has a Day Runner filled with everything from grocery lists to lists of possible birthday presents for her husband to lists of hair colors she is considering the next time she goes to the beautician. She also has a bulletin board covered with notes reminding her to call her parents, buy a teal purse for her niece's wedding, and send thank-you cards for Easter cards she'd received, as well as such personal-improvement notes as "Get more sun" and "Drink eight glasses of water a day."

Smalley insisted that not all of her work-avoidance tactics were of her own invention.

"I've gone to several management-skills seminars over the years," Smalley said. "They taught me the need to set goals, make projections, and use graphs and charts to strategize. In fact, in June, I'm taking a week off to go to another seminar in Indianapolis."

"Which reminds me," Smalley added, "I should really get a packing list started."

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