BB #20: Touch Once

BrainFireThe week is off to a weak start. Last week I thought things at work would finally start to move along on my project. But it turns out the guy who told me “next week” didn’t expect me to read his email until last Monday. So this week turns out to be the week he thought he’d have something.

No word so far, and he didn’t answer my email this morning.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the data chain, oh, it’s a big disaster that makes me shudder. Late today we got an opportunity to test just one link in the chain I’m trying to build. Tests failed, so it’s back to the vendor.

I’ll rant about that later (and you’ll be free to leave). First I just want to share the only time management tip I ever learned that turned out to be hugely useful.

The moral authority of chewed scenery and rended garments.

The moral authority of chewed scenery and rended garments.

You can perhaps tell from my phrasing that I’m not a fan of time management and other highly structured approaches to life.

I’m not interested in having all aspects of my life work as efficiently as possible. I want to waste time sometimes. I even want to be humanly inefficient sometimes.

You know how Captain Kirk was always arguing with those perfectionist aliens about how great, although yes flawed, humans really are?

How our flaws are really what makes us ever so much better than any damned perfectionist aliens with their dead, boring perfect societies?

The aliens were usually convinced by the moral authority of his impassioned, yet reasoned…  Arguments…  And!…  Torn… shirt.

It’s possible they were confused by the odd pauses and emphasis of random words.

There’s actually a very old genre of science fiction, known as humans uber alles.


Plus they had really scary looking space ships!

More recently — if perhaps more obscurely — fans of Babylon 5 may recall when the show’s creator, “JMS,” told us that, when all is said and done, some of you will agree with the Shadows.

He was right. I did. (Damned perfectionist nanny Vorlons!)

My point is, I side more with the dynamic, evolving, changing, chaotic side of life than I do with the static, aligned, known side. I’m an explorer. I’m interested in the stuff I don’t know. The stuff I do know is nice, but less interesting.

I live in a world of plowing new ground.

I do data integration, so each job is a new field on which to build something that wasn’t there before. Getting two systems to communicate is always custom, unique work.

(And I mean “unique” literally.) ((And I mean “literally” literally, as well. Most people don’t.))

Chaos means having pictures that make no sense.

Chaos means sometimes using pictures that make no sense.

[I was feeling too grumpy to write today, but now that I am, I’m having fun. Exercise (and many other things) can be that way, too. They seem like a pain in the ass until you actually get into doing them. And then you have fun. Life lesson there!]

So I’m often askance when it comes to time management and efficiency measures.

They’re just not my style or preference.

(Could I actually use a little more efficiency in my life? Arguably maybe. But where’s the Kirk-ish, Shadowy fun in that?)

But there was one thing that did penetrate my shields, because it actually sounded smart. And it was very smart, and it’s been saving me money ever since!

It’s a simple tip, called:

Touch Once

And it refers to handling any “document” only one time. In this context, “document” extends to mean any task involving a transaction or payment or other “document” you need to process.

Wrong kind of Bill!

Wrong kind of Bill!

In particular for me it means bills.

I grew up poor and still haven’t developed the habit of being casual with money. (On the other hand, my only debt is my mortgage, so that’s pretty nice.)

There’s just an inborn reluctance to actually sit down and pay the bills. And unlike writing, it’s never fun once you get started.

So I used to pick up the mail, bring it in and set it down somewhere.

Sometimes it would get moved to another place.

Then some night while watching TV I’d be bored enough to actually open my mail. I’d arrange all the bills nicely, often tearing off the return part and tucking it into the envelope.

Not that bill, either.

Not this kind, either.

And then setting that new pile aside for processing later when I was bored enough to actually write some checks and go through the troublesome process of closing the envelope (I’m always afraid I’ll get a paper cut on my tongue) and applying a stamp.

Then, of course, there’s a pile for out-going mail….

You see the problem (other than laziness, I mean).

I was constantly paying late fees.

Nor this kind.

Nor this kind.

The “Touch Once” principle really means you should sit down and do the bills entirely the moment you bring in the mail, but that’s a bit too efficient for me.

For me it means keeping going once I open them.

No more making a new pile.

Open bill, pay bill, apply bandage to tongue, mail bill next day.

And now I rarely pay a late fee anymore. Kinda nice!

I suppose this is very obvious to most normal adults, but maybe for some young folks just starting off with the whole money and bills thing it’ll be new and useful.

Rant Canceled

And again, no. (I give up!)

And again, no.
(I give up!)

I was going to excuse those of you with delicate shell-like ears while I ranted on some more about work for a few readers who are “on the inside” of things.

But the writing was fun, and now I’m not ranty anymore.

Instead, let me see if I can find…

Yes, of course I can find. Why would I doubt the web?

Okay, many years ago I was in a CD club where they’d send you CDs if you didn’t return the card telling them not to. And speaking of not processing mail in timely fashion, I got a lot of CDs introducing me to new music.

Happily, in most cases the discoveries were good.

FruitcakesOne of the really good ones was Jimmy Buffett’s Fruitcakes album (1994).

Until then, I’d just seen Buffett as Mr. Margaritaville and not much else.

This album blew me away and showed me that Jimmy is way more than Margaritaville.

He’s made some amazing and wonderful music over the years.

So here you are, the title cut, Jimmy Buffett’s Fruitcakes! A delightful tune!!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

6 responses to “BB #20: Touch Once

  • The Green Study

    Being a business manager a good portion of my working life, means that I am the model of efficiency and organization (one touch usually involves a recycling bin). I’ve had to unlearn that approach as my life gets less structured and more “artistic”. It’s good to have the work ethic – that applies regardless of the arena.

  • reocochran

    I am glad you got out of your ranting (dare I say “bad?”) mood! I enjoyed this so much better! I am a fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of person, but I have a limited budget. Once I saw letting a bill slide a little gave me a hefty penalty, my practical side said, “Wait! You could have had a nice dinner out on that money!” Which is my main way of rewarding myself. I am not a big purchaser of new clothes, so that is my motivation to get the bills paid as fast as I can! Also, I am glad we are all flawed people, so much more interesting than those who seem to think they are ‘perfect!’

  • Bill Hayes

    It’s always the time wasters who are important in life. They always have time to run someone to the station, or help push a stalled car, or listen to a long and boring story from someone who needs to get it off their chest. Time wasters are the savings banks where God puts his time so that those who have spent it in the wrong places may make use of it.

    As we Irish say, “When God made time, he made plenty of it”

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