Don’t Settle for Good When You Can Have Better

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As I gaze about my office, I’m amused at its absurdity. It contains an eclectic array of form and function. Although my computer technology is first rate, the room’s remaining contents are a varied collection emanating from different decades, with diverging appearance and disparate degrees of utility. In short, nothing matches. Of the six filing cabinets, three are metal and the rest, wood. With different finishes, colors, and styles, only two match. The four shelving units are also dissimilar: early American dark oak, maple-veneer particleboard, fake oak with blonde finish, and modular plastic. It’s not much to look at, but it all works – effectively and efficiently – to my complete satisfaction.

My office, however, is not just about function, as it also contains a collection of sentimental artifacts: gifts from family and friends, trinkets from significant events, and a near gallery of wall hangings – the most elegant of which is a tastefully matted and smartly framed cover of my first magazine as a publisher. Next to it hangs an evocative gift from my eleventh birthday: a picture reprint, bordered with a simple homemade frame. Then is a framed 3-D art rendering – the kind where you need to go slightly cross-eyed before the image emerges. On the far wall is an avant-garde depiction of a Monopoly game in progress. The remaining item is a black-and-white photo, housed in an inexpensive but ornate and antique frame. It is an aerial photo of my grandfather’s chicken farm, DeHaan Poultry, circa 1960.

I wrote the preceding description about my basement office in 2007, but it remained fully accurate for several years afterwards. For over a decade, my office configuration and contents served me well. During that time, it underwent minimal change. Even at the end, it lacked little in terms of functionality and efficiency, despite its visually diverse array of accessories.

So, why did I want to ruin a good thing? Quite simply, I wanted to make things better.

For years, this downstairs office, one with no windows and little distraction, served well as my corporate headquarters. Although I accomplished much work in my subterranean sanctuary, it was, at times, an isolating place to be. I especially missed seeing the sun. In the winter months, I’d often go to work when it was still dark outside, stay there during the daylight hours, and not re-emerge until after it became night again. The only time I’d see natural light was during lunch or an occasional outing.

When my wife joined me, she opted for a then-empty bedroom on the main floor as her office. Being able to quickly communicate when on different levels and opposite ends of the house is challenging. Her first choice was the phone, which I insisted she stop using to contact me. Next, she tried texting, but I didn’t much care for that either. Finally, she resorted to email, but since I batch email, that didn’t always provide a quick response. The solution was obvious. I needed to move to the adjoining bedroom, which was now also unoccupied. That would allow us to simply talk to each other, without the need for technology.

Although the upheaval of my comfortable office was borderline traumatic, the end result has been worth it. An efficiency expert would deem my new configuration to be even better, and a time-motion maven would grant me high marks as well.

Moving my office also afforded the opportunity to simplify. I discarded several unneeded things, while elevating the status of others items. I scrutinized files, streamlined workflow, and reworked my computer configuration. I bought and assembled a new desk; then, I installed a more practical printer. Plus, I now have a window.

Optimizing my office required an investment of time and money. It also took a while before I felt comfortable and effective in my new environment, but I’m better off having made the change. What I had before was good; what I have now is better.

What change have you been putting off in your call center? Act now and enjoy the results.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the August/September 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]