My Quest to Start Working
I have a confession: there are entire days – maybe weeks – when I don’t actually do any work.
Yeah, I show up at the office, go to meetings, do paperwork, and read, write, and forward a lot of emails.
But that’s not work.
In a typical day, I spend about five hours in meetings. These are client/project meetings, team meetings, production meetings, one-on-one staff meetings, weekly check-ins, and so on. The outcome of most of these meetings is a list of notes and action items. These action items then go into my to do list or are lost on paper because I never got around to typing them in. By all accounts, I am tremendously busy and my boss seems pleased with how much I appear to accomplish.
But in these five hours of meetings, I rarely do any work. My boss could hire a garden gnome to sit in meetings, crank out project agreements, and respond to 90% of the emails I get. Most of this isn’t work – it’s describing work. Too often we are measured by task completion and our very presence. We forget to measure value and quality.
One of my least favorite responsibilities is going back and forth over a project agreement. Project agreements aren’t work – they are talking about doing some work later. That is, let’s detail work that may or may not take place in weeks or months. (And since our agreements aren’t contracts, they don’t mean a whole heck of a lot anyway.)
Work is not the passing of time at the office. Work is about adding value and making a difference. Every morning, I drive about 45 minutes to the office and think about what I can do to create value that day.
Blogging and consulting with our clients are great because I’m helping educate others. Creating different strategies are fine, but only if we actually follow through on them. I don’t even mind writing policies or position descriptions because those will eventually enable others to do work and create value.
Nothing chafes me more than looking back on a full day, feeling exhausted from the fray of office life – and not having any sense of accomplishment. My goal, each day, is to make a connection between the work I did and some good that will come of it.
It shouldn’t be hard to do when your employer is working to change the world.