Saturday, July 11, 2020

Don't Plan Far Ahead And Count On People (COVID Chronicles)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made me realise one thing about life, more than ever - and that it's quite futile to plan ahead for matters beyond your control, plans that rely on other people to happen.

Remember how I complained about the library at the university I worked for being closed even after the lockdown lifted a few weeks ago? About 10 days later, the library actually made a breakthrough - allowing staff to borrow books through an online form! Yes, so the library is still physically closed (except for the librarians who just clock in and clock out every day manning an empty library because of, well, reasons). But seems like they really listened to my woes, right?

Hah! I really doubt so. I'm not so egoistic to think they actually read my article and acted on it. More likely that they've been planning to re-open 'slowly' for weeks, and they finally got their act together. Well done! All those days working hard in an empty library really paid off!

I got the books that I wanted elsewhere long time ago, so this hasn't affected my life at all. Well, except as a lesson for me to wise up and be more self-reliant, so not to rely on people too much, especially in these trying times.

I totally understand - plans take time to execute, even in normal times. Bureaucracy is like the kid who's always late for class. The teacher has moved on to the next chapter, and he's frantically trying to catch up, slowing the whole class down and pissing everyone off asking questions from the previous chapter.

Office open, but work stop

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This is but one of many other examples of grievances that I've vented about during this whole year that sorted out after I made back-up plans and didn't need them much anymore. Like receiving books I ordered weeks past their guaranteed delivery date when I no longer have free time to read them.

And then there's some good news that universities are finally re-opening up next semester in October, much earlier than expected (original plan was reopening only for certain batches like freshies, whilst the rest stay home till 2021). Am I jumping in joy? I guess I should. But the vaccine still hasn't been out. And many parts of the world are still scrambling over sudden spikes and re-closing school and re-imposing lockdowns.

The fear is that the decisions being officially announced today are actually decisions already made in principle a long time ago when circumstances were different (the announcement delayed due to people forgetting to check their emails or too lazy to reply 'Noted, no further comments, please proceed'.).

I'm just indifferent at this point. News come and go. What's true today may not be true tomorrow. Best not to get my hopes up too high and start makings plans prematurely only to get shot down later. My plan now is to just take one day at a time. Plan ahead for one week, at most. That way, you stay flexible, and don't waste time planning for things that can't actually happen.

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I still have many 'unresolved' matters on my in-tray marked as 'URGENT'. I still owe some people answers. But these are things that depend on other things happening, and I can't move until those other things happen first. I guess this is the same excuse everyone tells themselves for delaying action (including librarians). This goes to show how most organisations are stuck in a bottleneck.

Maybe the majority of us really want to get moving, but the few who holds all the cards and pushes all the buttons are the ones dragging their feet. I'm hesitant to call them as 'decision-makers' because that would be the direct opposite of what they actually do. 'Administrators' may be more accurate, but that implies there being a 'process', and a 'process' that doesn't move forward is yet another misnomer. Actually, I can think of plenty of names to call them, but they aren't the sort that can be uttered aloud in public...

I did finally read one of the books I ordered. And the book contained an interesting quote that I'm sure many of us can relate to, and is right on point. Here goes:

"The difference between a good administrator and a bad one is about five heartbeats. Good administrators make immediate choices... A bad administrator, on the other hand, hesitates, diddles around, asks for committees, for research and reports. Eventually, he acts in ways which create serious problems... A bad administrator is more concerned with reports than with decisions. He wants the hard record which he can display as an excuse for his errors... Bad administrators hide their mistakes until it’s too late to make corrections." - Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune (1981)

Look, I'm not flawless either. I have made plans that have gone horribly wrong. But the difference is that I don't make excuses. I don't hide mistakes. I make the necessary corrections - immediately. An administrator is only as good as the process that keeps moving. Bad administrators make bad processes that shift the blame to everyone else. Good administrators, well, they just shit done quickly, so that everyone else can go home early and sleep easy.

Know what? I didn't actually had a clear plan what to write when I started to write, like, over an hour ago. I was making things up along, scrapping out stuff that sounded too offensive and out of place. Well, this article stills feels a mess. But it's like a... beautiful mess. Right? RIGHT?

Boss here, work still stop

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Anyway, I suppose the final point that needs to be made is this - that spontaneity is one of the best human instincts. Spontaneity creates art. Spontaneity inspires ideas. Spontaneity drives life.

So if you're having trouble getting things done and plans to work because some lazy bugger up somewhere hasn't got any guts to get the process moving... fret not! Don't waste your energy venting on social media, to your boyfriend, or on one whole blog article (whoops... did I just... um... never mind!).

Just keep on moving. Think of another plan - one that doesn't involve counting on decision-makers administrators people snails.

Be spontaneous. Life, as always, will find a way...

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