Saturday, July 30, 2005

Doing for the Sake of Doing

What consumes you that really doesn't matter? Are you wasting time doing things just to be busy?

One trait unites every business I've worked with: spending time doing meaningless tasks just for the sake of doing or being seen doing.

Why? Well, "productivity" and "busyness" often get mixed up. Being busy is highly valued. It is equated with a strong work ethic which may or may not be true.

The managers at one Fortune 10 company pride themselves on how early they arrive at work and how late they go home. When questioning them individually, all admitting wasting probably what added to hours of time each day so to look impressive.

To add to this is the "Earlier than the Boss" phenomenon. Workers must arrive at least 15-30 minutes earlier than the boss and leave probably 5 minutes after she/he leaves. This practice is especially rampant in Japan, I'm told by a friend who works there, because it is tradition to stay longer than the boss. The result? Commuters in Tokyo going home at 9:00p.m.

I have one word for this: Stupid.

No workers can maintain productivity consistently for 12-14 hour days, day after day. The occasional week, month or even year for an over-the-top assignment that requires dedication that the employee loves may elicit this high-powered productivity. But for the average tasks, it will result in frustration, fatigue and apathy.

When talking about work-place motivation, being realistic about schedules would be a start. Note to executives: you may have sacrificed all to achieve your lofty position, but there are many people who have families and a life outside your beloved institution. At the very least give permission to your employees to take off at a reasonable time. And, don't penalize them for it later. At best, get a life outside of work, read something new, and you'll be surprised about the benefits you reap professionally due to this refreshed perspective.

Doing for the sake of doing ends up dragging you down and ultimately losing productivity not gaining it.
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