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I'm slowing down on my grand vacation, no longer playing Diablo III to the exclusion of everything else in my life. I even spent a day without playing it at all, though I have to admit most of that day I was sleeping and the rest was family time in chat. It's been great, it'll still be fun but it's no longer as completely immersive.

There are some ideas that slip into popular language and culture out of the business world. In the business world, these terms get crafted by clever people who want to control their work force. Maintaining an impersonal corporate policy lets any number of managers get away with major or minor abuses. Those are perks of the job and range from economic blackmail and bullying on up into flat out ripoffs.

Some companies, restaurant chains, routinely underpay workers. They trim some off the paycheck across the board with this or that excuse especially when the workers are tipped and they can pay less than minimum wage to begin with. They can bargain hard when people are desperate for work. Half a paycheck is better than none when survival's at risk.

What set me off thinking about this tonight is a sentence from a how to article about something that's essentially a toy. It was about organizing an iPod. The author said that having a disorganized iPod was "messy and unprofessional."

Excuse me?

Isn't an iPod your personal toy? Your music machine? Are you a professional music listener? Okay, there are a few people who are. A music critic probably does organize his or her iPod because it's important to keep new music separate from what's already been reviewed, that's part of the job. I organize my art supplies the same way, prioritizing review products I haven't tried yet so that I'll get around to reviewing them sooner.

But since when do you need to seem professional after work when goofing off? When you're on the bus listening to music? What if a disorganized iPod lets you keep your music collection fresh and interesting, as you stumble on favorites you forgot while trying to find the song you're looking for?

There are times and places for being professional. Showing up to a job interview is one of them. Heck, showing up on time to work is one of them, keeping up your tasks, going along with the dress code that you may well agree with because it helps define your status. Some of the guys in suits definitely wanted the suits and ties lifestyle and take pride in it.

There are times and places when it's not. Even at the office there are some people who can't work with a clean desk. Their style of thinking and analyzing takes an intuitive approach and their books and papers are strewn all over the place in apparently random piles. They're not random to that messy-desk thinker.

Body memory tells them that stack over on the chair by the door is what they were doing six weeks ago when they found the article on pterosaurs. So they go through that stack first and find it tucked into a book on mammals because they needed to mark something else. Replace the bookmark, retrieve article, cite it, seamlessly return to the project.

Where organization comes in is when collaborators need to find that article. You can't use a personal organization scheme if someone you don't know needs to find what you researched fast. That means you have to stop what you're doing to give directions anytime anyone else on the project needs something.

So the impersonal culture of business does work for some situations and doesn't in others, it emerges from the needs of some jobs. Not all those needs are ethical, the need for middle management to avoid responsibility is well served by "it's just policy, nothing personal."

It gets mindlessly carried over into the rest of life. People with messy-desk organization for things they do at home, like hobbies, wind up feeling ashamed of it and beat themselves up for being unprofessional when they are off duty and don't have to be professional.

When the point of a hobby or avocation is being able to just relax and do things your way, not have to answer to a group or a supervisor, why would it matter if your miniatures paints are lined up by color or by when you purchased them? When you're reading magazines for fun, sorting by "the ones with articles you want to reread" across a dozen different topics makes more sense than by title and year. When you're using your iPad, it makes more sense to organize or not by what makes you happy.

Professionalism can be taken way too far. One of the biggest problems people face today is endemic overwork without enough time to have a personal life. The work-life balance is skewed all the way towards work and people who are nowhere near "desperation" economically still live as if they are. Others don't seem desperate but the amount of debt they carry means they can never slow down. Then some moralist comes along blatting about divorce rates and tries to make them feel bad about the real consequences of hard choices too many people are stuck with.

It's not something easy to do, sorting your life out to have room for both work and play. It's one of the hardest situations when work is as enjoyable as play. I've had to fight myself to let myself relax and just enjoy this new game at the pace that I can and do enjoy new games, because I only succeeded at anything in life by single minded stubborn concentration to the exclusion of anything else.

But that just makes me a canary in a coal mine. People with more physical resources can lose that great health over the long run by neglecting themselves. I know now that I need to keep a good balance even if I have to do odd runarounds to make it happen. That I need to live by the calendar, not the clock, that's my body's pace. The only job I ever wanted is the only one I'm physically capable of doing in a sustainable long term way.

It gets a little scary to look at it that way. But also encouraging, especially when I look at all the effort I put into all the other things I tried to make a living at. Doing that much writing is going to make it work. Practice improves skill and demonstrably did. Fortunately most of the work isn't social enough to require much professionalism. For me it just means making deadlines or recognizing that I won't soon enough to deal with the situation and warn those who are waiting.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
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Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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