My biggest fear is that we are wasting our time. And since time is all we really have, maybe we are wasting our lives.
If we all collectively stopped our work right in this moment what would happen? Would the world stop? Unlikely. But would anyone notice? Also unlikely.
Anthropologist David Graeber wrote that 40% of jobs are pointless. I’m afraid its much, much higher. Inc magazine published an article suggesting that workers spend 62% of their day on non-work related activities. But the work activities they actually do are still pointless.
Every single project I have worked on had at least 50-75% of people involved not actually providing any benefit. (This includes projects I worked on by myself. I should have just done less.)
85% of meetings are useless. 10% are necessary but painful. 5% might be helpful.
I delete over 90% of emails I receive. Of the 10% I do keep, I would be fine if I deleted 90% of those. Not too long ago I just deleted every email in my inbox – a few thousand. Nothing bad happened.
“Let’s all be honest. Email doesn’t work. So I’m not using it any more. If you need to get in touch, just text me.”
Every major company I’ve worked with or consulted with could easily lay off 2/3 of their staff and still meet their objectives. Most would likely exceed their goals if they had fewer people. (There are some places this wouldn’t work, though. Maybe call centers? Or installation orgs? Luckily I’ve never worked with a hospital. But I’m sure they have waste, too.)
How are we spending our time that is actually work related? Presentations. Meeting notes. Emails. Agendas. Spreadsheets. This all feels like a giant waste. None of that actually matters. It doesn’t improve the human condition. It rarely improves profitability. It definitely doesn’t improve the quality of life of employees or customers.
Why in the world are we doing this? Why are we wasting our time, our energy and (by extension) our lives? I’m guilty of it too. So its not you, its us. I don’t really have an answer. Just the question .
So, what do we do now? Is there an escape? Probably not. Its systemic. Its ingrained in our work and cultural DNA. But these may help.
- Change your default meeting response to “no”. Don’t go to meetings. You won’t miss anything. You may make people upset. 1/3 of people won’t like you regardless of what you do, so don’t worry about it too much.
- Stop using email. If you need to share files, use Dropbox. If you need to get in touch, just text them. Or use Slack. Or Teams. Or Skype. Anything but email. Be radical and put an auto-reply on your email that says “Let’s all be honest. Email doesn’t work. So I’m not using it any more. If you need to get in touch, just text me.”
- Work less. Way less. Like half of what you think you should. Maybe less than that.
- Go to your office less. As little as humanly possible.
- Stop using the word “hustle” and “busy”. No one actually hustles other than middle-school sports teams. And even they don’t actually hustle. I’ve never met a single person who worked in corporate America that was busy. I’ve met people who waste their time and I’ve met people who are incompetent, but never busy.
And tell everyone around you to do the same. And remind me because I will probably forget.