My Monday morning started calmly enough - filled with good intentions. My desk was cluttered with papers, orders, sticky notes, ZIP disks, proofs, bids, Diet Pepsi cans, coffee cups, and, sadly, the dried-up last bite of a once-great burrito. It was about the only thing on my desk without a scribble on it. I studied it none the less, and wondered if I could write on it in a pinch.

You see, I've not been keeping up with the growing amount of things to do around here. Why? Well, I don't just do a job anymore, I have to develop timelines and give updates. I have to check-in with people. It could be that I'm getting behind because there is just so much communicating going on. Telephones, cell phones, faxes, voice mail, e-mail and the legions of couriers - they all end up stealing my time. I call them the Time Burglars.

I end up starting the same task about a hundred times because of constant interruptions by those miracles of communication - and it's affecting my mind. I think I've developed Information Induced Attention Deficit Disorder (IIADD).

On this particular Monday morning I tried to fax something six times. Between starting to fax and actually succeeding I got pulled into six different things.

First, I went to the file cabinet and got the invoice that needed to be faxed. On the way I had to speak with someone who had to touch base with me, and I promptly forgot about the fax.

Later, after starting an entirely new task, I suddenly remembered the fax, but before I could walk the 10 feet to the fax machine I had somehow lost the invoice. I spent a few minutes searching - then I got a phone call, which led to a brand-new emergency. The invoice search was forgotten.

An hour later I remembered, "Oh jeeze! I've got to go fax that thing!" I resumed my invoice search and found it on my desk. So, I ran to the fax machine, avoiding direct eye contact with anyone or anything in our shop. I got there, put the fax in the machine, but then realized I didn't have the fax number...

I decided I had to do more delegating. But, in order to delegate you have to find time to organize. I have five people staring at me, eager for something to do, and I don't have the time to even get one of them on a project.

Okay Augie, the word of the day is calm. Say it slowly and breathe - caaaalm. I've got a real problem here. When I stress I get adrenaline and it overrides my organizational logic.

I write notes on anything I can grab, wherever I am, knowing full well that it is going to get lost in the shuffle. Not lost forever, I figure, because I never throw anything away.

I just have to find time to go through all these papers and colonize all my to-do's into one master To-Do List. Then I can start delegating. Somehow I consolidated everything onto a master To-Do. I was determined to get this desk cleaned and tackle my List by the end of the week.

The phone rings. What? Is it 8 a.m. already? I take the call and there's a courier at the door. While I'm dealing with the door the phone rings again. "Augie? You have a call holding." I hear that ominous little ~ding!~ telling me an e-mail has just arrived. I jump up and look around nervously. The Time Burglars are coming!

I picked up a stray, seemingly harmless scribble. Oh no! I promised I would do this on Friday! I'm a little sketchy on what happened next. My life became a four-day blur. Suddenly, it was Friday morning and I found myself staring at an even bigger pile on my desk.

Okay Augie, snap out of it. Today is the day you complete the List. Focus! Where is that To-Do List anyway? It was right here - somewhere. My heart quickens and I start to panic. I had only just started looking when a terrible thought loomed just outside my consciousness. I pushed it aside and continued to look.

I checked the main production room. Nothing. The repressed thought re-surfaced in its full splendor. If I've lost my master To-Do List, I am as doomed as doomed can be! I've thrown away all the root-scribbles that I created it from.

I believe my List is really gone and I start getting into full-panic mode. After looking in the most unlikely of places, I found it tucked safely in my day-timer. Wahooo! Today I will finish these tasks!

Cut to 4:50 p.m. The last three hours were just spent doing rush renderings for a trade-show structure just given to us today - and was absolutely needed. That's it. The day is done. The back of my neck was like one gargantuan monkey fist. The Time Burglars defeated me and the List was untouched.

I'd had only one goal all week. It was a simple goal: Do my To-Do List. But I failed and I blame the Time Burglars. They're lurking around every corner, like stripe-suited marauders. Their rambling voice mails are filled with useless, irrelevant information. Their pointless e-mails don't contain any useable syllables.

They drop by, they pop in, they touch base, they ramble, they pontificate, they over-communicate, they revisit issues, they want the net-net. I always thought the net was just the net.

You know who invented net-net? Time Burglars, that's who. They keep you abreast and they check-in and want you to do the same. They can't finish a phone call without summarizing the excruciating minutia of the already excessively long conversation. They simply need, need, NEED your time - and they steal more than their fair share.

Next time in Augie's World we will explore these villains in-depth - in my exposé entitled Time Burglars Exposed. Until then run, hide, duck and cover and do your To-Do's - if you dare.


Stephen Augustine owns and operates Eye Candy Graphics, a graphic design and digital printing shop in Denver.

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