Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Systems and Language

Occasionally I muse about curious things. At least, I think they're curious. For example, why do fences matter to some and not others? Or, who was the first person to say "by jove?" This week my thoughts fell upon systems and language.

I've become a big believer in systems. Should you take a stroll by the QUADRE office, you'll notice that my fervor is born out. Major things have binders. To be a major thing, you have to belong to either sales, grants, or general admin. Each binder has a to-do list so I can keep track of everything. And each item on the to-do lists have a priority and ease number associated with it. A 1 priority is urgent, 5 not so. A 1 ease of use is simple while 5 is hard and complicated. Dates are attached to everything as well.

There is also a Macro To-Do List to keep track of the big things that need to be done over the course of the year. This includes conference, major grant and advertising deadlines as well as event details that recur every year. Since every to-do item is associated with something, there are also files to store this information. The files include jobs (past, current, and proposed); marketing; contacts; clients; grants; fundraising; publishing; non-profit governance; resources; and my personal favorite, miscellaneous.

With limited time every week in the office (got to continue to make a living doing other things for the time being), I make sure to tackle all the lists regularly and consistently. As much as I would love to do all the easy things first, the hard stuff is usually what makes the difference in the long run.

I find language to be such a tricky thing. Being as sarcastic as I am, I know I don't help matters. However, with email, phone, and text messaging being so prevalent today, it is so important to be clear in our language to convey accurately what we mean. In my case, I know that I have emailed every member of QUADRE at some point and-in my zeal to express myself completely-have managed to convey the opposite from what I mean.

Why? Because words are tricky. They can be interpreted two or more different ways half the time. For example, let's take the common phrase, "See you later." Do I mean that I will actually see you in the future? And how soon will it be? If I just mean "see" in a figurative sense, how will the communication continue instead? Also, what tone was used? Did I say it with a happy spring to my step or as a depressed and tormented artist? If you type it, one never knows.

To add to the confusion, I suffer from what some of my friends call "Daniel-isms." simply put, I use words that very few other people use or that don't exist at all. Two recent examples that I'm trying to coax out of my vocabulary include "irregardless" and "gals." My colleagues have fun with them and thank goodness they know me. The rest of the public at large, however, probably just think I have a screw or two loose. In turn, when I talk or type to this population, I end up being interpreted incorrectly or get written off as a dodo. Ah, what to do.

So, the moral (or as I used to say, morality) of it all is, speak and type like Ernest Hemingway. Keep it simple. Have a great day. Enjoy your week. Try to use "gal" in a sentence. Cheers.

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