The Ripple Effect
By Peter L DeHaan
had been thinking about it for quite some time.
However, something inside seemed to say that, “today is the
day.” What was that
something? It was
seemingly simple and of no real consequence.
I was going to reposition my computer monitor on my desk; it
would be moved a whopping 18 inches.
years ago, when I set up my office, I invested a great deal of time to
produce an optimal configuration, the epitome of efficacy and
efficiency. Yet over time,
things had changed. New
technology was brought in, additional office elements were added, and
the scale of my operation increased.
As each change was instigated, it never seemed to be a good
time to look at the overall flow and function of my workspace.
The immediate intent was always the same: find a place for it
now and make it work as quickly as possible.
It is sad but true that even as a partisan and promoter of all
things productive, I had allowed my workspace to deteriorate into a
den of anarchy – well, not really anarchy, but there were days when
organizational chaos seemed to be the rule rather than the exception.
of the changes that occurred during this ongoing slide into disarray
was switching from a laptop to desktop as my primary computer.
The desktop monitor didn’t fit my desk like the laptop had.
If I placed the monitor in front of the monitor stand (which
was the space previously occupied by my laptop), it was too close.
If I set the monitor on the stand, it was too high.
In the immediacy of the moment, I set the monitor to the left
of the stand, with the intent to figure out a better solution when
things slowed down. That
was three years ago.
“temporary” positioning of my computer monitor caused me to pivot
my chair and sit a bit askew whenever I worked on my computer –
which is most of the time. I
astutely discerned that perhaps this was not an ideal configuration
for my posture or physical well-being.
I estimated that it would take about 15 minutes (which I
rounded up to an hour, just to be safe) to remove the monitor stand
from my desk and slide the monitor to the right.
is the day,” my inner voice emphatically implored.
I knew that to be true. So
after I processed the morning email – it was a slow day, only taking
about two hours – I slid under my desk to investigate the complexity
of the monitor stand removal process.
Five minutes later it was removed and sitting on the floor in
the middle of my office. Gleefully
ahead of schedule, I began to ease the monitor across the desk to its
new home. Carefully, but
intentionally it crept along with the help of my firm yet steady hand,
but after six inches, only one third of it’s journey, it came to an
abrupt halt. The monitor
cable must be caught on something, I surmised.
was wrong, the cable had no more slack.
What to do: Go unto plan B (which was yet to be determined) or
retreat to my original configuration?
Although seeking to procure a longer monitor cable was an
option, I desired instant gratification and didn’t want to waste
time searching for something that might not exist or would be hard to
move the computer, I concluded. However,
to do that I needed to first move the printer, but that opened up
space to put stationary bins next to the printer, which was another
“someday” project that I had been contemplating.
I could use some of the bins that housed past issues of this
magazine; after all, I didn’t need to keep copies in my office for
as long as I was. I would
simply move the unneeded books into storage.
effort, unfortunately, prompted me to recount my inventory of past
issues (no need to keep too many copies), throw extras away, and
reorganize my archives. A
half hour later, I was back in the office.
One thing led to another and then another.
I was three hours into the project and things were scattered
everywhere; there was scarcely room to move.
finally got the computer hooked back up and working, but I couldn’t
work myself. Things were
in too much disarray. By
the time I was done, six hours had elapsed; I had relocated every item
on my desk (and moved a few things twice), rearranged most of my file
cabinet contents, made multiple trips to the garbage to dispose of
unneeded and obsolete materials, reprioritized my pending work,
disconnected an unneeded gadget, cleaned up some wayward wiring, and
even cancelled some phone services that I had ceased using.
was two weeks ago. It took
several hours to do, but the results are worth it.
I am now more efficient and effective.
I am writing this column two weeks ahead of schedule, my
backlog of work is no longer overwhelming, and I feel in control of my
work, rather than being controlled by it.
Did all this happen merely because I moved my monitor?
Indirectly, yes. Moving
the monitor had a profound and significant ripple effect; one that
will be felt – and appreciated – for quite some time to come.
people – and even some organizations – never experience this
ripple effect. They just
go from day to day, month to month, and year to year without ever
giving a thought to the incapacitating office evolution around them.
Things get squeezed in here, hooked up there, and stacked on
top of, until routine work becomes an illogical series of unneeded
steps or wasted activity. Their
work becomes harder, but change seems harder still; taking time out to
make things more efficient is an inconceivable consideration.
converse are people – and even some organizations – that make
changes often, seeming for the fun of it or even out of compulsion.
They spend hours restructuring their office and do so every
week! They make this time
investment so often that they will never realize payback on it.
They experience the ripple effect frequently and often
continuously. Some might
say they are making waves!
is another kind of ripple effect that is far more important.
It’s the ripple effect we produce by the words we use and the
things we do. These
ripples affect others. Sometimes
our ripples are positive; other times they are not.
Some people have no ripples at all.
all been around and known people who are chronic complainers;
they’re negative and seem to pull others into their foul moods.
They are seemingly not happy and their apparent goal is to
bring others down to their level of pessimism.
They have a negative ripple effect; the ripples they generate
produces an undertow. We
need to be careful around such folk or risk being sucked in and pulled
some people produce no ripples. They
have no impact on others, whether good or bad, positive or negative.
I’m not sure how this happens; surely at some point, they
must have had a ripple effect, but now it is gone.
These people aren’t much fun to be around either.
There is no movement, no influence, nothing.
They inanely move from project to project and from day to day,
in sad and rote subsistence. No
ripples, no fun, no way!
people make positive ripples. That
is who I want to be. I
want to have a positive effect on those around me.
I want my ripples to motivate, to encourage, to inspire, to be
supportive, and to be eagerly anticipated and greatly appreciated.
We all know people – and organizations – like that, too.
They are the ones with smiling people all around them, who
inspire others to achieve more as they spread their ripples in all
directions and for the benefit of all.
is the day, go make some ripples!
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