Efficiently avoid showing proficiency in any task

Burt's Eye View

The boss dropped another pesky annoyance on my desk. “When you catch up with all your other tasks, you can work on this,” she chirped. “Think you can have it ready a week from Tuesday?”

I suppressed a chuckle. More like a hearty guffaw. The last time I was caught up on everything, I was 8 and had just cleaned my room.

On that dreadful day in 1967, I had succumbed to a bad case of ambition. I’d already changed the dog’s water, fed the cows, mucked the barn, and carried my underwear upstairs and stuffed them into a dresser drawer — possibly even the correct drawer.

We didn’t have a TV and I’d already read all my comic books 16 or 17 times. So in a whirlwind born of boredom, I attacked my room. I got it done.

“Wow! Burton, that’s wonderful,” Mom said, “Since you’ve already finished that, I need you to mow the lawn, weed the garden and straighten up the basement.”

That enlightening day in 1967, I learned the penalty for efficiency and diligence is a multiplied workload. I haven’t finished a single thing since.

Look around. It’s the busy person who gets things done whose boss or spouse keeps piling on the expectations. If you manage to not finish a thing in the first place, they’ll avoid asking you to do more.

Oh, sure, every now and then, a variant of the ambition virus creeps up and infects me with a feeling of carpe diem. It turns out to be carpe diem oopsus — I’ve seized the wrong day. Or possible the wrong goldfish.

Once I was halfway through finally installing that paneling in the hallway before the fever broke. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I’d nearly accomplished something. I took two Pop-Tarts and called off work in the morning.

If you must finish a task, don’t let anyone find out.

An uncle remodeled the interior of his home. I don’t think he ever finished, but it was magazine-spread beautiful.

You’d never guess it driving past his place. Fading paint peeled from siding curled around windows and door frames that appeared to have been neglected for 50 or 60 years.

Why? He figured that if the assessors figured out he’d accomplished something, they’d hike his property taxes. Worse, relatives would invite him to their house and meet him at the door with a hammer and a bucket of nails.

And don’t fall for that, “It’ll just take an hour or two” routine. My dad told me to calculate how long a job should take, multiply that by three and then you’d be closer to, but probably not yet touching, the truth. There’s always a part missing, a tool or software that you don’t have, a rusted bolt that won’t turn, a coffee stain blurring the sheet of instructions or an incomprehensible form for which you need another four or five years of schooling before you can complete it.

In short, initiative and enthusiasm begets frustration and the irritation of more work.

Want to live a stress-free life? If you have a to-do list, take it out and write down these items:

1 — Tear to-do list into teeny, tiny shreds.

2 — Go back to bed.

Now I need to figure out how to finish this column … Nope. Bye.

Accomplish nothing with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or www.burtonwcole.com.


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