Painting the House Builds Character

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 19

Yesterday, we finally finished after five weekends of work. We finished painting the inside of our new (old) house. The house has a “mother-in-law” unit as well, so all told: three bathrooms, four bedrooms, a laundry room, a long hallway, two-story entrance way, two kitchens, two living rooms and a dining room. It was a lot of paint, tape, time, and cleaning along the way.

The interesting thing for Cubicle Warriors about painting the house happened yesterday morning. That is when I got up and knew that day was the day the painting would be done. Not tomorrow, not next weekend, but that day. I was thinking about how much work had been done and how long it had taken. Then there was this odd sensation: I actually accomplished something that was big, took a long time, and followed through to completion.

Have you noticed that everything you do at work is an iteration of something? It is this code release, this interim report, this first draft (or fifth draft), this “something but get it out because we can fix it later” thing we do. As I write this, I can’t remember anything from a consultant in the last 30-years that has anything more on a “final” report than “draft” stamped all over it. Like it is a final, but we’re not really done nor willing to commit to what is in the report.

Except for some projects, nothing we do at work any more is ever “done.” Something we could stand back from and admire for a few minutes and then live with the results we accomplished.

Instead, we have “continuous improvement” and the next plan and the next release.

Necessary, of course. But I wonder if all of us haven’t lost the sense of accomplishment and completion at work because we’re just on to the next iteration of the next thing. Perhaps we need to paint the house and know when we’re done so we can rediscover the pride of accomplishment.

  • […] Receive articles automatically: subscribe through an RSS Feed or by e-mail. Choose in the “Subscribe” box top right.In a special report, Forbes Magazine is taking a look at Life-Work Balance. In all of the discussions about work and life, the word “balance” consistently comes into play. But, there is no balance. There is just life. Sometimes the work that you do includes what you get paid for and sometimes the work that you don’t — like painting the house before the move in. […]

  • […] Over the last several weeks, we’ve been moving the household from one place to another. It’s a lot of work. I’ve written a little about this before, including painting the house, starting over again, and getting some technology for the new place . […]

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Your comment reminded me that one of the reasons I like yard work is that you can say “I need to complete these three things” and then I would go and complete them. Ahhhh….done.

    Cooking, too. These ingredients, this work, this time, and a meal. Accomplishment.

    Just not as much at work any more, especially for knowledge workers.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Jennifer says:

    I agree! In my job nothing is ever really “done.” I think that’s why in my personal time I gravitate to hobbies like crafts, where you actually complete something by yourself. I can look at a scarf, for example, and say “it’s done, and I made every stitch in that thing myself.” Heck, I even enjoy finishing off a bottle of shampoo. Makes me feel like I accomplished something. 🙂

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