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Rands in Repose: The Noise (randsinrepose.com)
152 points by filament on Feb 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

I don't think this article is just about having a job that's full of Noise, it's having a life that's full of Noise. Every day, every week, every month, I do things. I walk the dog, clean the kitchen, stay in touch with people on Facebook (ack!), contribute minimally to HN. But all of this is Noise in the same way answering emails, consoling coworkers and contributing tiny fixes are noise.

So many of us live Noisy lives, lives that look busy and productive and in many ways are all of that. But I'm 38 and if I died tomorrow, none of that crap would amount to a hill of beans except that my family would be reasonably provided for and would think I was a super swell, no-nonsense guy. But it takes an immense amount of courage to begin to eliminate the noise and take on more signal. Lots of people say do it slowly but the more I run into the Noise, the more I begin to think you have to "Burn the Boats" as was mentioned in another thread. It's just too easy to slip back into the comfort of the Noise. Because for all it keeps me from doing, the Noise feels good because it helps me avoid the fact that there's almost no Signal in my life.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

- Henry David Thoreau Walden (1854)


Thank you for saving me from a little more noise in my life. You wrote out exactly what I was thinking and now I don't have to. :)

Think beyond the workplace. A lot of what we read during the day (Twitter, HN, etc.) is noise, even though we give it value. Ever gone on a vacation for 2 weeks and realized nothing important happened while you were gone?

It's not that we shouldn't read, but we should not deceit ourselves about the value of what we read.

Yes. Haven't taken a proper vacation since I got hooked on these services and realized the whole lifestyle is insane. I wasn't in my right mind, couldn't focus, had horrible productivity.

After a few months the noise crept back, it was a way to take a break from work that took less effort than getting off my ass and going outside.

There's also a factor of having nowhere to go if you live in a shithole. I wonder if people from Europe waste as much time on Twitter/HN because typically their real world surroundings are better. Maybe the whole social networking craze is driven by the horrible residential planning in the US.

If your job is 100% noise, quit. But a workplace will always have some noise, face it. But measure it, know when it's too much, and quiet some of it.

No job is going to be 100% noise; and you can't really tell noise from signal or when it is too much (until you wake up 2 years later).

That's why I'm working as a semi-independent contractor and trying to launch stuff on my own. At least if a project gets too noisy, I get to say NO a lot.

Any advice on the last bit?

Defend signal. If a meeting, email, or offhand discussion seems like noise, politely bow out. The biggest drain is assuming that these things all require your attention -- instead, take a break, figure out what merits your attention, and feel good about stepping back from everything that doesn't.

Work from home. Do communication with instant messaging and email (you can decide when to be available for input, limiting noise).

Take a mental step back and look at what you are doing on a larger scale. I'm not good at this, but I think it would make the noise clearer, and easier to quiet.

I have a wife and a 7 months old son; and while I love them both very much, working from home is really hard because of all the distractions. Not to mention it gets really hard to separate home from work time. It also gets pretty boring (smelly too, since the incentive to take care of yourself decreases :)).

I do work remotely, with flexible schedule and all that, but I have rented an office pretty close to my home.

Just wanted to say: I don't know how other people can work from home.

Then don't work from home when your son still is at home daytime. Not taking care of yourself and having a hard time separating work/home time goes hand in hand.

Start early, put on real clothes. Work out tasks, then get cracking.

Funny, I don't think I have a lot of noise in my life, even though I would like to leave my job and am generally feeling frustrated here lately with not having moved on already. But I know why I haven't moved on: I had to get well. Perhaps my increased sense of frustration is a good sign -- an indication of rising energy and awareness that my burden, in terms of health and the time and work needed to resolve it, is substantially less. If so, then the odds are good I will move on in the near future.

It seems this article has a higher ratio of upvotes to comments than normal. Am I to hasty to conclude that the people upvoting avoid leaving a comment in order to not reveal to the public that they loathe their current work position?

Yes, you're too hasty. I upvoted this without commenting because the article was strong and interesting and I had nothing to add.

Since 'great article, I agree completely' comments get downvoted on Hacker News (that's what the up arrow's for), a lot of upvotes and few comments means the article is both good and not particularly contentious.

(Throwaway account even though I did already quit)

I suspect you're partially right, but also how insightful is a comment "yeah, I hate my job, too"?

I decided to quit my (great in many ways) job during my 2 week break end of last year and I'm working my last days of the transition/notice period. Because of the extended transition period, I've had a lot of time to reflect on the noise (and signal) of my position. I'm definitely going to miss the signal, the coworkers, and the comp, but the noise was absolutely unbearable at times, and more often than not, completely unnecessary. It was fabricated, chosen noise, not the ever-present inherent noise in a profit-seeking company.

I'll let you know in a year if choosing less noise and way less guaranteed comp (at a startup) was a good call. Anecdotally, of course...

I loathe my current work position.

Or perhaps trying to avoid the Noisy comments ahem ahem ;)

Pick your signals carefully - many turn out to be a different-sounding noise.

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