Professionally Speaking

Time Well Spent

This month, our columnists address what we do in our on- and off-hours.

First of all, I need to make one comment. Obviously, this time-management stuff is working for Greg, as he actually got this column in ahead of deadline. Not that that’s unusual for him, mind you. I’m usually the one bringing up the rear, and this month is no exception.

Another comment: I remember that the precursor to “business process redesign” and “re-engineering the corporation” was time management. Back then, during a short period of time, I attended a number of time-management seminars and workshops. As a matter of fact, we used to joke that we’d make better use of our time if we didn’t have to attend all that time-management training! Oh, well. At least we learned where Santa got the idea to make a list and check it twice.

We’ve been hitting some pretty heavy subjects lately, like appropriate behavior and ethics. So this month, let’s lighten things up and talk about what you do in your downtime. Let’s start building some lists here, such as, “best techie books with real people in them.” You know, not the MCSE study guides or How to Program Your Cisco Router to Make French Toast, but works of fiction or nonfiction that deal with the lives of technical folks. My favorite in this genre is The Soul of a New Machine, written by Tracy Kidder back in 1981. I’m also partial to Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland. A more challenging, but very interesting, read is Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, by Sherry Turkle, concerning the phenomenon of creating a separate identity, a separate persona, when you’re on the Internet. What have you read and liked in this category?

How about movies? What are the best technology-based movies of all time? No, Titanic doesn’t count, nor do the works from Pixar. They’re not about technology, they are technology. Anybody remember Tron? How about Colossus: The Forbin Project? I think one of my favorites is WarGames, and not just because it’s a very good lesson in bad password choices. Trivia question: What are the two components something had to have in order for movie (and television) audiences to realize it was a computer? Give up? First of all, at least one of those huge IBM tape storage devices—the ones with the 12-inch reels of tape, preferably going backward and forward in short, random increments. Second? Blinking lights, of course!

As you all know, all work and no play makes anyone dull.

So how else do you waste, er, spend your downtime? I know—games! I must confess, I’m not much of a gamer. The last two computer games I had any interest in were The Journeyman Project and Starship Titanic, but I know most of you are gamers. Again, send in your choices for best games about technology, not using technology.

Finally, television. What are the best shows about or revolving around technology? Just to make it interesting, let’s eliminate any program or series produced by Gene Roddenberry or his successors. Would you consider E.R. a technology show? What about Nova on PBS?

As you all know, all work and no play makes anyone dull. With the tech business being the way it is these days, I’m sure many of you have more downtime than you want. Let me know how you spend that time. Write me at [email protected]; put "Pro Speak Time" on the subject line of your message. I'll post the best responses in a future column. Who knows? Maybe we can make this an annual poll, a sort of counterpoint to the MCP Magazine salary survey.

About the Author

Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.


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