Hold On to the Badge

This is a rather silly little hack but when I do it, it solves lots of little problems. 

The situation: 

  • At my workplace, our badges have a chip to unlock the secure doors. 
  • The badge also logs me in to my computer. After inserting the badge into the computer, I enter a PIN and wait a minute or two or three for the login process to finish and Windows to boot up. Once booted, I can pull out the badge. 
  • People forget about their badges and leave them in their computers. This is such a frequent occurrence that a big window will pop up on the screen after 20 minutes or so if the badge is still inserted. 
  • But by the time that window pops up, you have walked out of the locked office area to the bathroom or to get coffee. Returning to the locked door you  realize you left your card in the computer. You are locked out. Much knocking and embarrassed, hushed "thank-yous" follow.  

So, what to do? Here's what I tried:

  • I printed out signs with big red letters screaming BADGE!!! Within days, I'd stopped seeing them. 
  • I moved the signs to places where I'd be sure to see them when standing up or exiting my cube. I walked past them as if they weren't there. 
  • What worked sometimes was simply to sit at the computer while it booted up but...is that boring or what? I would get impatient and walk away, promising myself I'd remember to retrieve my badge but usually I forgot. 

As I've learned from Mark Forster's books and blogs over the years, the first step in plugging a leaky process or system is to not take the failures personally. This is not about correcting perceived character flaws. I didn't fail, my system failed. Failing provides information I can use to tweak my system so it will work with me and not against me.

As I daydreamed about what would help the situation, I remembered a detail from Thomas Limoncelli's time management book. He mentioned that he kept his badge in his hand as he took off his coat because if he ever set it on a desk or shelf, he'd forget he'd done so and walk off without it.  

Hmm. Maybe instead of reminding myself to retrieve the badge, the simpler solution would be to never let the badge leave my hand. 

The following system is what has worked best: After I insert the badge into the computer and enter my PIN, I put my fingers on the badge and I wait for the computer to boot up. After I'm logged in, I whip out the badge, put it into my badge holder, and go about my business.

No need for signs or reminders, no forgetting the badge, no embarrassed knocks on a locked door. It's a pretty leakproof system.

I can't explain why keeping my hand on the badge and waiting works for me while leaning back in my chair and waiting does not. Perhaps the simple act of holding the badge is enough to engage body and mind. I'm actively rather than passively waiting. 

Also, waiting that minute or so teaches me that the pain of boredom is imaginary. Just ignore that feeling and wait, if waiting is what needs to be done.

Michael E Brown @brownstudy