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To Be Fair, Filing Is Boring

Amazing tidbit from an Ask a Manager compilation of anecdotes about terrible job applicants:

“Because I used to get about 500-600 applicants every time a file clerk was posted, I started putting one prescreening question. [¶] The question was ‘Rate your interest in the following job duties: Filing’. It was the only job duty listed, since it was the only duty of the job. The only options were ‘Interested’ and ‘Not Interested.’ I could usually weed out 2/3 of the applicants because they would put ‘Not Interested.'”

Book Review: Managing to Save the World

In my experience as a reader, there are two main types of book. These types span all genres and topics. The first is steady going. I read a few pages every night, maybe a chapter — I plod through. The second type is gripping. I tear through the book. I pick it up (or open the Kindle file) and can’t put it down.

The quality of the book isn’t the distinguishing factor. For instance, I’m working on The Design of Everything Things at the moment. It’s an excellent read in terms of intellectual content, and the writing is accessible. But it’s not a rip-roarer. Who knows why? Probably my reaction is determined by something very idiosyncratic about my personal tastes. And yet, when reviewing a book, I must hope that others share my proclivities, at least a little.

pens and pencils in a messy bun
Photo, work hair, by Emergency Brake.

As an opposite example, Boss Life pulled me through quickly. So did Managing to Change the World. The latter is a primer on how to be an effective manager at a nonprofit company, written by Alison Green of the invaluable Ask a Manager blog and Jerry Hauser, who used to be second-in-command at Teach For America. Together they work at The Management Center.

Managing to Save the World, by Alison Green and Jerry Hauser

“Fundamentally, a great manager is someone who cares passionately about getting results. And that can’t be faked. If you are truly determined to get results, it becomes the fire that fuels everything you do[.]”

I’m such a fan of Green that I felt confident enough about the book’s probable quality to write this post’s intro before I finished reading it. I was right — Managing to Save the World is very good, and the advice is applicable to professionals outside of the nonprofit world.

In essence, Green and Hauser organize common sense into principles and processes. They are straightforward, presenting various concrete examples and tools. Managing to Save the World is a textbook for professional adults, complete with a summary of key concepts at the end of every chapter.

Here are some of Green and Hauser’s suggestions for managers:

  • Use time efficiently and effectively to get results. How? Well…
  • Guide rather than do. Your time should be devoted to tasks that only you can complete.
  • Learn to delegate and create a culture of accountability…
  • By supervising and following up throughout every project.

An acronym mentioned in one of the chapters represents the book’s overarching ethos quite well: “SMART goals are strategic, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound. Goals should measure outcomes rather than activities whenever possible.” Managing to Save the World is definitely a recommended read!

Ugh Please Shut Up

the annoyed boy -- illustration
Illustration by Elise Lesueur.

I’ve been going through Ask a Manager’s archives, and I came across this charming tidbit regarding how to put up with people who seem unbearable:

“My sister always advises me, when visiting annoying relatives, to pretend to be one of the many long-suffering characters in Jane Austen novels who have to be pleasant to and patient with irritating relations. It’s remarkably effective; it reframes things in a much more amusing (and bearable) context.”

annoyed french bulldog
Annoyed French Bulldog by RONLEWHORN.

I emailed that quote to my mom, because she tends to share Sartre’s condemnation: “Hell is other people.” Mom responded:

“Yes! I often think about how much time those characters had to spend listening to boring people prosing on and on about something completely uninteresting for the thousandth time. And they had to pretend to be interested and keep a pleasant look on their faces.”

After a minute she sent another email and quipped, “How lucky we are to be alive today, when no one is surprised if you’re rude.” If only!

I try to cope with irritation graciously but it is very difficult.

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