Being In Task, Not On Task

My Office.

The Incredible Sweetness of Being, Part Five

At my office, late in the day on December 30, I turned to a spreadsheet. The office was quiet, our numbers thinned by holiday vacations and a flu bug. All my more urgent, complex tasks of the week, the month–the year–were done. A spreadsheet awaited me, though. I’d update the monthly figures and provide the 2011 totals to my boss before leaving for my own scheduled vacation the first week of January.

It was a late-in-the-day job for me, this spreadsheet. Since I’m a morning person, I structure my workdays to tackle tasks that demand more complex thinking earlier in the day. I’d rather schedule that important meeting for eleven than for three, for example. I also have a mental “slush pile” of more routinized chores that I reserve for my late-afternoon mental slump. Complete the monthly accounting? Morning, all the way. Put up the resulting statements and reports for filing? Four p.m., every time.

I could do this spreadsheet with my eyes closed. Open the November spreadsheet. Save as the December spreadsheet. Update the title in the header to reflect the proper month. Update each row of figures. Spot check my work. Email it off to the boss.

On this day, though, I chose to do it with my eyes open. And what I saw wasn’t pretty. The spreadsheet title wasn’t centered over the columns, nor was it flush left. It hung, randomly adrift in the space above the columns.

I might as well fix that, I thought. With a few clicks I neatly centered the title. Hmm. Why are the columns all such random widths? I tweaked the two columns with the 2010 data until the the data fit neatly, but not too snugly, then applied the formatting to the rest of columns for the prior years, all the way back to 2004. Better.

Those column titles don’t jump out from the page, I noticed. I tried setting them in boldface; they looked chunky and menacing. But increasing the font size just one notch gave them more presence. Then I added a line between the column titles and the first row of data. Better.

Next I took on a few empty cells, adding a “0” or an “n/a,” as appropriate. I put a thin double line around the entire worksheet. As a final flourish, I added the art file containing our company logo to the lower right hand corner.

I didn’t usually bother to put our logo on internal documents. But after my digging around beneath the report’s utility and unearthing it as a creation, it seemed like the thing to do.

I heard footsteps in the hallway. “Good night, Sheila…and happy new year,” the administrative assistant said on her way out. “Same to you!” I called out.

Huh. I’d been so engaged with recreating the spreadsheet, so delighted to add a bit of beauty to this mundane report, that I hadn’t yet updated the numbers for the month. And it was time to go home, to welcome a new year, to launch my week of rest.

I sent my husband a text message: “I’ll be fifteen minutes late getting out today. I’m finishing something up.”

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)