My brain hurts


I got six hours of sleep this morning, and though I woke gladdened that I’d gone to bed as soon as I could and not stayed up reading a book, I was still feeling several hours short of well-rested. I dragged myself off to work, worried that my mind was going to evaporate through the back of my head, and started running forecasts with a vengeance.

Yes, I’m trying to glamourise sitting at a desk and using Excel while deprived of sleep. Truly, mine is the greatest profession.

I added numbers up, I divided them. I multiplied, and then I cross-checked. I went as far as transposing a column of figures into a row, and in a devil-may-care moment I used conditional formatting to make negative numbers glow red. I had become Death, destroyer of worlds.

I had become That Guy That’s Good With Excel.

Such moments of triumph, of majesty and foolish pride must come to an end, and it was about the time that I realised I’d been doing my triumphant work off a big pile of out-of-date data (would “out-of data” be a more efficient term? No, it would not) that I fell from my ivory castle of spreadsheets, and realised that the day was going to get a lot longer.

I had meetings to go to. I had more things to add up. I had emails to read and emails to write and emails to read before I sent them on to somebody else. I had a big big pile of work to get through.

The emails shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath, as they’re not work. They’re those things you have to plough through before you do any work, unless your job title is “The Person Who Reads Emails”. But like a not very exciting drug, I can’t break my addiction to them.

Occasionally an email comes along that transcends all this, that makes you realise that this oft-abused and maligned communication medium can still produce moments of beauty and wonder, allowing you to revise your entire world view for the better.

But not today.

I did get an email addressed to me and eighteen other people. One of those emails where the subject line is “IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED” but you’re not sure which of the nineteen recipients is meant to do something. It’s difficult to know whether to reply to everyone and endorse this sort of madness, or only reply to the sender and assume that nobody else is also doing that.

Email’s not very good for IMMEDIATE ACTIONS, especially if most of the recipients are at least eight time zones away from the sender, and IMMEDIATE isn’t spelt correctly. (In God we trust: everyone else has to use the spellchecker.) Still, because we don’t have any way to send messages instantly between different people, that’s all we can do.

Oh, hang on. We have instant messenger software.

And telephones.

And a fax machine, if you want to annoy somebody somewhere else by making their printer suddenly start beeping and churning out paper.

Still, I replied, a few hours after nobody else had, to ask about the IMMEDIATE ACTION. That made me the first responder (see, it’s impossible to not make email sound exciting). And I hit Reply-All, because I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution…


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