Wednesday, 03 August 2016 15:01

Preventing Work for Work's Sake

working for works sakeAre You Working To Accomplish Something, or Just Working Because It's There?

It's funny how many people say they're hard at work but in reality, they're just going through the motions and looking busy.

I'm one of those people. If there's one thing that working in a corporate environment has taught me, it's that looking busy is more important than actually being busy.

Let me illustrate:

If I have a stack of papers on my desk, a phone to my ear, and typing furiously at the computer and the boss comes by, He's going to compliment me on how much I'm getting done, when in reality I just moved that stack of papers from the left side of my desk to the right. I'm talking with a friend about what we're going to do this weekend, and writing a blog post rather than getting the TPS reports done.

Why Can I Get Away With This?

The corporate world is very backwards. Most workplaces are more concerned with you spending as much time at the office as possible, paying you as low as you'll agree to, and giving you work that doesn't really do anything for the corporation. In the office, I go to meetings day in and day out.

Without fail and without deviance, the meetings take three times longer than they have to, result in a list of meaningless action items designed to keep everyone busy, and no real accomplishment in the end. Most of the meeting attendees are just there to kill time so they don't have to act busy at their desk. 

it should be pretty obvious that working for work's sake is futile, and will have you feeling like your a hamster on a wheel in no time.

While there is nothing I can really do about the work mentality in the corporate workplace, I can apply this idea to every other aspect of my life.

If You're Going To Work, It Might As Well Be Worthwhile

Being well aware of what you are doing, and it's true purpose is the first step to living a more meaninful life, and a step that I am taking right now. Before any real task, whether that be cleaning the house or working on this blog, I always make myself stop and ask if the work really means anything to me, and does it help me get closer to accomplishing something truely worthwhile.

The question then is, "What is Worthwhile?" What I've come to see is that your mind might see anything you do as worthwhile. For example, Last weekend I set out to clean my desk and drawers at home in preparation for the creation of this website. Everything was going fine until I got to my junk drawer.

I spent two hours just going through that one drawer. Granted, it was the largest, and meant to store hanging file folders, but regardless, I was pulling everything out of the drawer and organizing it into piles. Once organized, I started putting the stuff back in the drawer that I thought I wanted.

In all, It took me 3 hours to clean just my desk and drawers, but you know what?

I didn't need to do any of that to get started on this site. Honestly.

I fooled myself into thinking it was important to do for two reasons:

  1. I was just doing work for work's sake. I felt that I had to feel busy in order to feel like I was getting things done.
  2. Because I cleaned the drawers, I could trick myself into feeling like I'd gotten closer to accomplishing my goal, which is not the case.

Simply put, all I needed to do was clear the area right around the keyboard and mouse in order to effectively use the computer. 

In reality, I was just putting off what I actually needed to do and working on something that did nothing to help achieve my goals in order to feel like I was making progress and working hard. The sad fact of the matter is that in hind sight, I started cleaning because I didn't know where I was going to actually start if I did sit down and start in on development of this site.

What Is The Takeaway?

Sometimes we put off things that we really need to get done by replacing them with things that keep us busy, and nothing more. Truthfully, I'm sure you can see that cleaning the desk didn't do anything to help build a website.

I let myself make the excuse that cleaning my desk would somehow contribute to starting the website. I told myself that I needed a clean workspace, and while that may be true to a certain extent, the mess that's in the desk drawers don't detract from either creativity or workflow because they just don't get in the way of typing on the computer or moving the mouse around.

A 20 Year Car Restoration That Still Hasn't Been Started

On another occasion, a friend of mine bought an old and rusty 1964 Chevy Impala that he wanted to restore. He bought the car 20 years ago, and it's been decaying in his garage ever since. Over time, other things started piling up on the car as his family needed space to put things. It's gotten to the point where the car is absolutely buried under junk.

Every time I see him, he mentions the car. I swear to God he hasn't touched it.

  • "Not enough money..."
  • "I don't have time right now..."
  • "Work has just been too busy..."

His usual excuses don't vary much. The fact of the matter is that I beleved that he was simply procrastinating.

Earlier this year, I went over to his house and set out to help him unbury the car so he could actually start working on it. I got there on a Saturday morning around 8AM, and by 10PM at night, he was still sifting through boxes and trying to find homes for all the junk. The sad fact of the matter is that we could have just thrown all the stuff into the garage attic in about four hours and had a fully unburied car to work on.

While I'm sure that organizing what was in the boxes needed to be done, he picked the wrong time to do it, and did it for the wrong reasons

You see, by focusing on putting away what was in the boxes, he was deterring himself from the real goal of getting the car out from under all the junk.

He was working his ass off, that's for sure, but for the wrong reasons and purpose. In his mind, it became more important to work on the boxes that had amassed over the years than actually start in on the car, which was why I was there to help him.

Working For Work's Sake Doesn't Just Mean Working Aimlessly

It also applies to working on the wrong things at the wrong time. When you work on anything but your main focus, you're in effect, delaying and detracting from the real purpose and goal.

Don't feel bad though. This happens for a number of reasons.

One of the primary reasons isn't procrastination, as you might think. Rather, it's because you haven't created a real game plan for what you will do when you achieve the primary goal, and rather than figure that out, it's easier to do something else, and still feel like you accomplished something (which you have, but just not the right thing).

For instance, In my case, I didn't have any workflow planned for this website, and since I didn't have the foggiest idea of even where to begin, I chose to clean the drawers so I could still feel the sense of accomplishment and completion... even if it was for the wrong reasons or didn't help me achieve my wants or needs.

In my friend's case, It's speculation, but I believe that he didn't have a clue where to begin if he did pull the car out to start restoring it. Sure, it was a great idea, but he lacks the knowledge of even where to start if we had been able to pull the car out of the garage. He also isn't rich, and deep down, I believe that he was worried about feeling the obligation of sinking thousands of dollars into the car for restoration if we had accomplished our goal.

Actionable Item You Can Do Right Now

Working for Work's Sake is a very big deterrant from getting what you really need to get done, done. As you go through the rest of your day (and from here on out), ask yourself periodically as you work if what you are doing is helping you nearer to the goals you have. If it is, great. If not, stop what you're doing and tackle the real to do items that will directly help you accomplish the things you want and need to get done to achieve your dreams.