• James Walton

Cheap Alarm Clocks are the Worst

A while back I started paying attention to the wisdom that you shouldn't use your cell phone as an alarm clock. The underlying logic is that keeping your phone by your bed means you'll look at it late unto the night, and the blue light from the phone will ruin your REM sleep, or some such thing. (Well jokes on them because it turns out you can use an alarm clock and stare at phone before bed. I have many weaknesses.) I bought the cheapest alarm clock on Amazon I could find and have regretted most every morning since.  The chief design flaw is that the buttons have nothing to differentiate from each other. They are identical in size and texture. So in an early morning fog I wonder whether I turned off the alarm clock, snoozed it, or changed the display to 24 hour time. Owning this alarm clock is like inviting fresh anxiety into your life every morning. The ambiguity is the worst.  The solution is a marking on the top of the Alarm On/Off button with any sort of texture. This simple gesture of generosity would make every subsequent interaction with this device better. Think about your work in the same light - what simple gesture can you leave behind to help the next person who encounters your efforts understand it better?  Here's a few simple suggestions:

  • Build a legend into your Excel worksheets to identify which cells are inputs, which are formulas, and what any color coding may signify.

  • Develop a simple work sheet for any process you oversee. Include a section on known issues and variances to explain in a few words what took you the hard way to figure out the first time. 

When your work becomes more generous and less ambiguous, your colleagues benefit from your hard-won wisdom, less get drops through the cracks, and the customer benefits from collective efforts of your team. What are some examples from your work world of making a process less ambiguous?

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