COVID19 Weekend Work

Day 99: Weekend highlights & Joy at Work

June 22, 2020

I discussed ending this series at 100. However, I am rethinking that plan. Things have certainly not normalized. And I am very happy that this series has been a comfort to some.

It definitely has been to me!

Yesterday’s Highlights:

  • walk outside with G
You may notice we are often out in 90 degree heat & humidity with long sleeves/pants. This is not some weird modesty custom (or lack of cute summer wear) but a necessary defense against the mosquitos which are RELENTLESS even with DEET applied.
  • weekly Publix venture ($382 if anyone is curious). Of note, we were entirely out of milk, all fruit, and all vegetables (other than a few shallots and half a red onion) by the time I went. So satisfying to use everything up.
  • making buttermilk pancakes for breakfast (with heated up frozen peaches, see above) & turkey burgers with corn salad for dinner.
  • A NAP (seriously this is my new favorite weekend activity)
  • organizing the stationery supplies in my desk drawer
  • FaceTime with my parents (it was Fathers’ Day, after all!)

Josh enjoyed his Fathers’ Day as well (I think) — the kids (ie me) got him 2 shirts from Marine Layer and Annabel made a card.

I finished Joy at Work on Saturday night. This joint effort by Marie Kondo (who wrote about 20%) and Scott Sonenshein (the other 80%) did not contain many things that were earthshattering, but I still liked it. We will be dedicating an entire podcast episode to this in future weeks, so I won’t go into too much detail, but a couple of my takeaways were:

1- Yes, I am overdue to physically clean out my office. My office is not a mess, but honestly — it could be far tidier (to use the official Kondo term). I am ready to let go of stacks of paper articles that I literally NEVER look at because everything is accessible online now.

2- Regular cleanup of digital spaces are important, too. I am not sure about reviewing every single document to see if it sparks joy, but I suspect a LOT MORE could be dumped into ‘archive’ making it much easier to find what is relevant (and saving time overall).

3- Urgency is a problem. I absolutely see this at work. When we are constantly interrupted by “urgent” things it’s so hard to focus on anything for any significant period of time. From the book: “Research finds that half an executive’s activities last less than nine minutes, leaving them without much time for deep thought. Factory foremen average 583 discrete activities for an eight-hour shift. Mid-level employees average only one thirty-minute or greater uninterrupted time block about once every other day.” I ABSOLUTELY feel this pain and not only does it feel terrible, it tends block big important projects from moving forward because they do require that concentration time. I am determined to carve out more uninterrupted time for the deeper parts of my job. (BUT THIS IS REALLY HARD!!!!)

4- “Good enough is good enough for most decisions.” Honestly, I don’t tend to agonize over decisions most of the time, but I do sometimes crowd-source more than is necessary and tend towards trying to make everyone happy (IMPOSSIBLE). I think this is especially important in the COVID-19 era where everything changes every 5 minutes. No need to agonize, the plan will probably be revised quickly anyway.

5- Small messes turn into larger ones. I find that to be so true – in both the concrete and the abstract. The authors quote a study: “Researchers compared a tidy shared workroom with a messy one. After a brief period of time, the messy one had three times as much additional cutter as the tidy one. Once the clutter barrier is broken, it’s all too easy for people to keep piling it on.”

I can think of a LOT of areas of work and life where this is true. My planner. Rules for the kids. Physical clutter. It’s like . . . letting things go initially ‘breaks the seal’ in a way and can lead to mayhem. A lot of times, we are better off just keeping things neat to start with and maintaining that.

WELL. I am not sure work decluttering is going to happen in my office today (or even in the next week or two) but maybe I can take a gradual approach.


  • Reply Amy Maneker June 22, 2020 at 6:05 am

    Simply wanted to say ‘thank you’! Your daily postings during this challenging time have been much appreciated. I look forward to reading them each morning. They bring me solace, joy and comfort. Thank you!

    • Reply Anna H. June 22, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      i second that!

      • Reply Laura June 22, 2020 at 2:11 pm

        Same here!

        • Reply Irene June 22, 2020 at 4:54 pm

          Me too! Thanks Sarah.

          • Arden June 22, 2020 at 8:16 pm

            Me too! I was dreading 100. I play a game when I get up in the am whether SHU beat me up and productive or not. Haha

  • Reply Tamara Cohen June 22, 2020 at 7:05 am

    the clutter note resonated with me. We have a dining room table at the entrance of our apartment and every week, I clean it up (usually on Monday’s) and it feels great to have it clean and I always vow to NOT dump things there when we walk in because once we start, it just piles on all week and looks awful and bothers me so much! But it’s so hard NOT to dump things there once we have, for example, left the mail there.

  • Reply Omdg June 22, 2020 at 7:16 am

    I couldn’t disagree more about the clutter, and reading about Marie Kondo’s new book brought back memories of every unpleasant bully woman I’ve ever worked with who wanted to micromanage my personal space. Shudder. Not everyone works the same way.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 22, 2020 at 7:18 am

      Totally respect that opinion. This might be one of the areas in which you and LV see eye to eye 🙂 . I don’t think the advice can be universally applied and I did not make that point — which I should have! So I’m glad you pointed it out. I personally really find I am calmer and work better in a clear space BUT I know so many people who are incredibly productive with piles surrounding them and are not at all bothered by those piles.

      So for me, the advice made sense – but your comment is important and spot on for many who work differently.

      • Reply omdg June 22, 2020 at 10:38 am

        Haha! Yes, LV and I do agree about some things, which include, but are not limited to hiring as much childcare as you actually need rather then amount you wish you needed, spending money to make your life easier, spending time on things that are important to you, etc. Just not everything.


  • Reply Kwan June 22, 2020 at 7:43 am

    I just want to say thanks for not ending your streak at 100! I would see your daily count inch toward that number and get anxious! Reading your posts each morning brings a sense of comfort and normalcy really needed right now. 🙏🏼

  • Reply Michaela June 22, 2020 at 8:11 am

    So glad you’ve decided to keep up the posting streak. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts with my coffee every morning before diving into this crazy new SAHM/WFH life. Re. clutter – I’m lucky that my husband also can’t tolerate it and we make it a point to clear as much as we can every night after kids bedtime. But that does not extend to things like drawers and closets and those are starting to make me anxious. Would love a BOBW episode focused on the book!

  • Reply KGC June 22, 2020 at 8:43 am

    The ‘urgent’ stuff is so hard. I and my colleagues (all genetic counselors at a major academic research institution) had a mini book club and read a book about advancement for medical faculty. It was great working through the chapters but one thing that really resonated with me was this grid of urgency and importance. It’s a 2×2 grid with Urgent and Not Urgent on the x and Important and Not Important on the y. The idea is that we should be able to divide tasks into ‘urgent and important,’ ‘urgent but not important,’ ‘important but not urgent,’ and ‘not important and not urgent.’ Many many emails (and other tasks, but emails especially) fall into the last category – not urgent and not important – but we end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on them because they seem urgent (even if they aren’t). We should be mostly spending our time on things that are important (and sometimes also urgent). I mostly now use this to try to think about into which box everything on my to-do list would fall and that helps me both prioritize and justify trying to block time for the important-but-not-urgent things that usually get pushed to the side because they take more time/concentration. Step 1 is figuring out what should be done during the big blocks of time. Step 2 is figuring out how to actually carve out the time!

  • Reply Aly June 22, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Yes, your daily posts have been a comfort. Thank you! I love reading what you write.

  • Reply Teresa June 22, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Hi Sarah, I do look forward to your daily posts and will miss them when the series is done! Thank you for doing this and helping keep up grounded in this strange time.

  • Reply Kat June 22, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Hello! I would be so happy if you kept posting! It’s the first thing I read, and prevents me from Instagram scrolling first thing.

    Re: urgency. A lot of tech companies have a practice where an official “DNS – focus time” block is explicit on the calendar. Do not schedule. This also implies you won’t respond to chats or emails. You are leading your team. You can build that culture. It can help if those blocks are regularly scheduled far in advance (ex: MWF 9-10:30 or somesuch). You can create this – surely you aren’t the only one. You can also create the opposite – meeting hours once or twice a week that everyone tries to keep an open slot for so you can schedule last minute more easily. This may be harder with clinicians, but might work with notice and building the culture.

    Re: crowdsourcing decisions. Have you heard of type 1 vs type 2 decisions?

    Type 1 decisions are not reversible, and you have to be very careful making them. Type 2 decisions are like walking through a door — if you don’t like the decision, you can always go back.

    For example, you can suggest that everyone start with those calendar blocks. Have some lightweight discussion of the best times. Say this is an experiment, and you will see after 2 weeks if it works and discuss. Then just use your authority. I think the tendency to crowdsourcing is common for newer managers because they can be afraid to make a mistake, or nervous about being seen as authoritarian. Type 2 decisions are good ways to practice authority. To own your position of authority. You can even teach your team about the difference between those and call it out explicitly.

    I have no idea of that’s close to your reality or experience, or if medicine is different enough that those principles don’t apply. But this is part of tech management training, and think it could be useful to explore.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 24, 2020 at 6:46 am

      very interesting! i feel like the world of medicine is SO different but . . . it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I need to think more about this.

  • Reply Zulema June 22, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    So true about clutter attracting more clutter..this is the case with my basement!

  • Reply KLB June 22, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    So glad to read you aren’t after all planning to call it a day on your Blog streak tomorrow Sarah. I have said before that when you post early in the morning in Florida it hits my inbox here in the UK at about 11 a.m. which is just perfect to stop for a read with coffee! I echo everyone else saying how much I have enjoyed and benefited from reading your daily posts these past 99 days, and before. And just think how glad future Sarah will be to be able to look back to this very strange time and see real day by day records of so much that is quickly forgotten when the days merge into one, as they tend to do, or memories are altered by hindsight.

  • Reply Anna June 22, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    I agree with the above. Thank you for keeping us connected!!! Wondering if $380 is a (new) normal amount for you to spend at the grocery store every week. I’ve been shocked by my new grocery budget. Thanks

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 22, 2020 at 7:39 pm

      It is higher BUT we also used to go more often than once a week.
      I’m guessing it is ~20% higher than normal

  • Reply VL June 22, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Me too!

  • Reply LEE June 22, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    I’ve never heard the term “clutter barrier” before, but I love it. This is basically a domestic version of the Broken Window Theory in sociology.

  • Reply Christen June 23, 2020 at 12:44 am

    Hi there! Just another reader chiming in to say thanks so much for your daily posts, and how delighted I am that you might continue past 100! My morning wake-up ritual is to read blogs over a cup of coffee to have a relaxing first 15 minutes of the day, and I’ve loved having your blog available every day of this crazy pandemic time. I live in Italy but am from the US, so your blog makes me feel closer to home and also always inspires me to get a good start on the day. Even on days when you write that you’re struggling, I find that inspiring too, because it reminds me that it’s okay struggle or be upset or unmotivated, etc., sometimes, and that those feelings will likely pass. Anyway, I’m rambling, but just wanted to say a big thank you for these past 99 days and the past I don’t even know how many years before that, and for whatever intervals of writing you feel up to continuing!

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