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I had a simple lunch today, beans and rice. The reason why I did so, at my desk, tells a story about how organizational structure has  consequences far down from the source.

There was a time when I was eating out every day. I enjoyed having the social hour with my co-workers, and the break in the middle of the day. We went to all kinds of places – Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Colombian – and regularly took our time. I’d feel refreshed when I came back, but then I’d look at the clock.

Because it added considerably to the time I had to spend in the office, I scrapped it. When I compared the time in my day on social vs. solo lunches, there was a clear winner. On a different work schedule I would do it, but on my schedule, it’s not feasible.

Now I bring my own food, healthy food, each day. I prefer to eat a complex carb lunch as my main meal of the day, so it carries me through to dinner without hunger. It’s not the tastiest, but it works.

The other people in my department, who are on a different schedule, eat together, and leave earlier. As a result, a sort of time-based wedge has formed between us. I could eat out with them, but in my case, it would come at a time cost that I’m not prepared to pay.

I miss the social aspect of eating out with co-workers, but considering the time it adds to my commute (considerable, since not only is there the time itself, but there’s extra time savings from leaving before peak rush hour), the choice is obvious. The time savings are just too much, the extra time in traffic too painful.

In a way, it’s a testament to unintended consequences. When I started,  I had no idea this little rider to my contract would be so important; I never thought it would determine the structure of my days and my relationship to my co-workers. At the stroke of a pen, due to one simple decision, it was all decided. Sometimes these little decisions, as they roll their way down into implementation, end up being enormously consequential, as this one has been for me.

Now, when I make far-reaching decisions about my own future, I try to keep this in mind. I don’t know what my decisions will add up to, but since I know that even small ones can be formative, I try to be careful.


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