Artificial work where a lot of people time gets wasted

When the people doing their jobs get stuck, they have to wait for others to do something and in the process, time gets wasted.

Feb 24, 2021

How many times have you felt busy, felt over worked only to realise that not much has really moved forward? That despite all the hours you put in, the needle has barely moved. You're not alone if you can relate to this, this is a far more common problem than people realise and no surprise, there's a name for it, "Artificial Work".

Most living beings on this planet spend effort to live, survive and thrive. So much so that when an experiment was conducted to see if animals prefer to work for their food, versus getting it for free, almost all the animals preferred to work, with one exception and no it's not human beings.

We've come a long way from fighting for our survival to changing the environment around us to suit our survival and coming out on top of the food chain, quite literally. A consequence of that is also the time we have at our disposal to varying degrees. With each milestone in human history came more convenience and also more time. Every generation at pivotal moments wondered what they would with the time and the new found efficiency that came with it, only to find that people only got busier, time only got shorter.

This is primarily due to a well known tendency where given any task, work fills to expand the time available. If I were to tell you that you had a single day to get me the best coffee you could, you'd try and make it work. Chances are if I give you a year, you'll end up doing a lot more and might just end up making a coffee machine instead.

We tend to fill the time we have with work that might not necessarily be needed and we do this by adding complexity, by focussing and working on things that are not directly related to the task at hand and tertiary at best.

We don't this just do this to ourselves, but also to others around us. Ever had your manager assign tasks to you because you appeared to be free, only to find those tasks are not as meaningful or impactful. We have the drive to fill our time with work and a need to be busy or in this case "Appear" to be busy.

If you're asking what else are we supposed to do, well simply nothing. Downtime is as important as being productive. This is the time that our mind has finally got the time to relax, to wander, to wonder, to come with ideas, to reflect. This applies to you and also the manager in us trying to make every minute of the team count.

Once you've got yourself some time to relax, to let your mind wander, and more importantly wonder. Do yourself and your team a huge service by asking yourselves a couple of simple questions:

  1. How much of my time is going to do things that only I can do best?
  2. How much of my work will have a direct impact on the bottom line, both mine and my team?
  3. How much of what I do is helping me grow both personally and professionally?
  4. How much of what I do can be replaced with software, or be delegated?

If you find yourself getting nervous at the answers, don't worry you're not alone. You've just embarked on a journey that will enable you to work on making the most of the one resource that everyone is in need of "Time".

If you find yourself wondering which animal went for the free food, well done, you're not alone :)

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