Author Topic: The art of not working at work  (Read 194797 times)

goodlife

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The art of not working at work
« on: November 28, 2014, 12:35:27 AM »
I came across this article and just absolutely have to share it, I am so curious to get people's reactions.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/11/the-art-of-not-working-at-work/382121/

The reason why I post this of course is because I can totally relate to it. There are so many hours in my day when I do absolutely nothing at work. Now, like that civil servant pointed out, this is not because I am some kind of evil person, shirking at work and depriving my employer of resources, but rather there is just not that much to do to begin with. And this, mind you, despite the fact that I work in a supposedly high-pressure field (investment banking, private equity). Yes, I have regularly worked very long hours (12h is the minimum, 14-16 hour days are not abnormal), but a lot of that time is not actually spent doing anything. There is a lot of waiting around for someone else to send you something and most of the late evening hours are completely useless, it's more of a prisoner's dilemma kind of situation where you feel like you can't go home because everyone else is still there...everyone else also feels the same way...but in fact nobody is really doing any real work.

I really wonder how many people who have office jobs are also affected by this. I am not suffering from burn-out...but bore-out is likely to set in at some point (but thankfully I will be FI soon). I think certain jobs might be exempted from this problem...teachers, doctors, nurses etc. But the large number of office dwellers?

When I got my first internship, I was really puzzled. I was constantly asking people for work, until someone told me that if I want to get a full time job here, I should stop that and start pretending like I am doing something, otherwise people will perceive me as lazy. So here I was, sitting at my computer day in and day out pretending to be busy. I got a job offer with flying colors. I was also trying to figure out what everyone else was doing all these hours...it really puzzled me, because when I asked them, I could tell that they are mostly BSing. Years later now I have come to realize that most people around me are probably in the same spot as I am...but they just don't admit it. I have a small group of friends who I can joke with about this, they work in all kinds of industries and all have the same problem...but most people, oh no, they would never admit that they are really not doing very much....and for sure not doing very much that's useful. Also see: http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

MDM

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2014, 01:05:27 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

act01

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2014, 02:03:06 AM »
I'm in a job like that now - I'm also in a high pressure environment, but only doing actual work about 15-20 hours a week. I think of it more like being on call in an ER - I don't need to do much, but the work needs to be done quickly and correctly when it arrives. The funny thing is when I was a contractor (which I did for 6 years) I sometimes worked slower because I needed the hours!

It's one thing if the employer is oblivious, but in my case (and a previous company I worked for) they were fully aware time was "wasted" through the day. My old boss asked me to slow down because they wanted to keep it a leisurely environment. The typical pace in my industry is pedal to the metal (where people burn out fast) and they wanted happy employees, not workaholics. In my job now, it's totally transparent because they track my project hours. I think it's a huge benefit to have free time! I work on side gigs from my personal laptop. I read books and blogs, so they are essentially paying me to educate myself.

I wonder why we don't question the opposite more. Are cramming in too much? With qualified people looking for work, is it really necessary for one person to be doing 60+ hour work weeks?

Monkey Uncle

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2014, 04:57:55 AM »
This is a totally foreign concept to me.  I've spent the last 11 years chanting the mantra of the govt. employee: "more with less."  I could work 80 hrs a week if I wanted to and still not get everything done that needs to get done.  But I usually cut it off around 50 hrs (and get paid for 40) because putting in extra hours doesn't get me much more than the occasional atta boy.  50 is about what I need to put in to keep everything from totally falling apart.  This constant stressful situation is one of the main reasons I want to FIRE.

libertarian4321

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2014, 05:02:01 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

libertarian4321

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2014, 05:04:34 AM »
I've spent the last 11 years chanting the mantra of the govt. employee: "more with less." 

If only government actually worked that way.  I always thought that while the "mantra" of government might be "more with less," but the results of government tend toward "less with more."

mak1277

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2014, 05:14:00 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

This right here. I was going to reply and say my peace but this pretty much covers it, right down to the example of husband and wife, which is exactly replicated in my household.

goodlife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2014, 05:57:49 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

HAHA!!! This describes my life perfectly! I always finish things very quickly, but that doesn't mean I do it badly, I am just really efficient! My boss on the other hand...FRAZZLED!!!! Always busy busy busy, but never getting anything done. Your email example...spot on...I observed her "composing" an email once...it would have taken me literally 30 seconds: 'Dear X, are you free to meet on this date..."...simple enough, but no, she spent at least 15min composing the email! Just today she wanted me to edit a certain model and was freaking out how long that will take me. I was like wtf lady....it takes like 30min...and that's exactly how long it took. But never mind, I still have to be in the office the whole day...even though only 50% of the time I actually work on things. The rest I am just bored...surfing the net or whatever. Of course that sounds like bliss to some people...but not for me...it's been too long like this. There are some (few) days when I am really challenged all day and have things to work on. Those are the days that I am happiest at work...because I am not bored.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2014, 06:00:51 AM by goodlife »

GuitarStv

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2014, 06:07:11 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

HAHA!!! This describes my life perfectly! I always finish things very quickly, but that doesn't mean I do it badly, I am just really efficient! My boss on the other hand...FRAZZLED!!!! Always busy busy busy, but never getting anything done. Your email example...spot on...I observed her "composing" an email once...it would have taken me literally 30 seconds: 'Dear X, are you free to meet on this date..."...simple enough, but no, she spent at least 15min composing the email! Just today she wanted me to edit a certain model and was freaking out how long that will take me. I was like wtf lady....it takes like 30min...and that's exactly how long it took. But never mind, I still have to be in the office the whole day...even though only 50% of the time I actually work on things. The rest I am just bored...surfing the net or whatever. Of course that sounds like bliss to some people...but not for me...it's been too long like this. There are some (few) days when I am really challenged all day and have things to work on. Those are the days that I am happiest at work...because I am not bored.

+1

Unfortunately management wants to see asses in chairs.  People who put in tons of overtime to get their work done are considered fantastic employees rather than inefficient workers.  If you actually just did the work assigned and went home when it was done, you would be fired within a month . . . regardless of how well the work was completed.  So, here I surf.

Workinghard

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2014, 06:16:43 AM »
The poblem arises when people who are good with organization and time management skills get punished by having extra work piled on.

I am a salaried employee, soon to go Perdiem. I am expected to meet 26 units of productivity Friday through Monday. Invariably, I end up with 28 to 32 units. Compare that to Monday through Friday people who are required to have 32 units. Because my work gets done, handed in daily, and it is thorough, and there's no consumer complaints, I get extra and sent out of county which adds more time in my day.

I have shared organization and time management techniques. I'm amazed at the people who are not willing to take the time to do it.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2014, 06:20:20 AM »
I've spent the last 11 years chanting the mantra of the govt. employee: "more with less." 

If only government actually worked that way.  I always thought that while the "mantra" of government might be "more with less," but the results of government tend toward "less with more."

Don't believe everything you hear on Faux News.  While the military, entitlements, and Homeland (in)Security keep taking more and more money, the rest of govt keeps getting cut and is expected to produce the same or more.

Raay

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2014, 06:39:19 AM »
It's nice to hear what those "extremely high pressure" finance jobs look like. I always laugh at people who claim that they are "working 80+ hours a week" (yeah, my ass)... My previous job in academia was also in part counting hours and trying to looking busy. Such a waste.

Since I started contracting on my own and working mostly from my home office a couple years ago, I don't have this problem any more. However, my average number of billed hours per day is down to 4 (I count the remaining non-billed hours as entertainment). I hear this is about the same amount that is routinely productively spent in a 9-to-5 position.

Also, it's very true that individual productivity varies a lot, almost orders of magnitude. I noticed this when delegating work to an employee - the guy is about 5x slower than myself (and he is not paid by the hour, so I can't say he is purposefully slacking off).

Luck12

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2014, 09:21:57 AM »
We have some in my office who are regularly working and logged in and working from like 8 to well past 4:30 (judging from email time stamps and the times I've gone back to the office to pick up things I forget after the gym, etc) which is the time I usually leave.   I don't understand how this is the case since I'm not actually doing work more than 4-5 hours in any given day.  It's too bad we efficient workers can't just leave at say 2PM.   I take advantage of the free time by doing errands, reading e-books/PDF's, going to the gym, taking long lunches.

       

socaso

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2014, 02:00:28 PM »
I work in a service industry and will quite often have downtime on the job. In service fields it seems they are paying you to keep their hours.

Milizard

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2014, 02:38:38 PM »
I can totally relate to this topic.  Some of my coworkers filled their time with bitching and gossiping about others, being generally overcontrolling and inefficient, and taking over parts of my job that they felt were interesting.
I dealt with it by quitting.

Primm

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2014, 02:42:33 PM »
Sometimes I wish I had a job where this was an option. I can't imagine not working during the time you're at work. I'm a nurse, and if I don't work from the moment I hit the floor until the person coming on takes over from me, I wouldn't have a job. Not for more than a day, anyway. And I'd be bored shitless, quite frankly. :)

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2014, 02:58:43 PM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

HAHA!!! This describes my life perfectly! I always finish things very quickly, but that doesn't mean I do it badly, I am just really efficient! My boss on the other hand...FRAZZLED!!!! Always busy busy busy, but never getting anything done. Your email example...spot on...I observed her "composing" an email once...it would have taken me literally 30 seconds: 'Dear X, are you free to meet on this date..."...simple enough, but no, she spent at least 15min composing the email! Just today she wanted me to edit a certain model and was freaking out how long that will take me. I was like wtf lady....it takes like 30min...and that's exactly how long it took. But never mind, I still have to be in the office the whole day...even though only 50% of the time I actually work on things. The rest I am just bored...surfing the net or whatever. Of course that sounds like bliss to some people...but not for me...it's been too long like this. There are some (few) days when I am really challenged all day and have things to work on. Those are the days that I am happiest at work...because I am not bored.

+1

Unfortunately management wants to see asses in chairs.  People who put in tons of overtime to get their work done are considered fantastic employees rather than inefficient workers.  If you actually just did the work assigned and went home when it was done, you would be fired within a month . . . regardless of how well the work was completed.  So, here I surf.

+2 here, efficiency gives us A LOT of free time. And most of the time, our results are better !

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2014, 03:24:18 PM »
This article hits the nail right on the head for me! I'm one of them, where, unless I get an email or a request from my boss to take care of something, I stand around all day. I'll likely end up with some kind of stress injury in my neck from looking down at my Kindle and phone all day. But I'm honestly not sure what to do about it. Will probably start looking for a new job come January.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2014, 03:38:45 PM »
The amount of time many of us (myself included) spend participating in this forum during working hours is good evidence of this phenomenon.

act01

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2014, 04:09:32 PM »
I used to think it was a waste of time to be at work and not be doing anything (I refer to it is "chilling and billing") - but looking back, it was resentment that I had about being stuck there. I tried going freelance (where I could leave when the work was done) and it steeply cut my salary.

Time is only what we make of it. I used to be incredibly uncomfortable with being idle and was a busy bee all the time. Then, my mom had a heart attack from work stress and I realized that I was heading down the same path (I was working double shifts, taking on extra work on the weekends, hobbies, meetings - I was in "go" mode or "crash" mode). So I question if busy types are really just uncomfortable with being idle (that's how I was). Now, if I work in a private room, I'll take 15 minutes to meditate, which is actually proven to lower stress and raise attentiveness. I'll leave and take a walk - they know if I'm not in the office to call and I'll come right back. To me, it's a quality of life thing, in addition to health.

The biggest delay in my work now is waiting for approval. Work goes out to a client or manager, and they know we're on the clock until we hear back. Sometimes it can still takes a few hours to get a response. It's just a known cost of doing business (albeit inefficient.)

Johnez

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2014, 05:29:12 PM »
Former salesman here. Having the freedom to surf YouTube for obscure heavy metal bands got old quick. First 3 hours of the day was always a complete waste, as were the last 3, till the inevitable last five minute before closing rush, lol. Went back to the building of sofas, selling was a huge bore. Now if commission was attached it'd be a different story.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2014, 01:25:31 AM »
Ah, what is worse is having a never-ending inbox of useless to finish tasks, that people randomly get upset if not done on time.

I worked in analyst position, and had to generate dozens of repetitive reports a week, and email them to store manager groups.   When I became the manager, I made no concealment of the fact that I  would have my group stop publishing about 10 more every month to see if anyone noticed.

Rarely, someone did- about 3 to 6 months later and a quick one off custom report was all they needed.

libertarian4321

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2014, 01:45:54 AM »
I've spent the last 11 years chanting the mantra of the govt. employee: "more with less." 

If only government actually worked that way.  I always thought that while the "mantra" of government might be "more with less," but the results of government tend toward "less with more."

Don't believe everything you hear on Faux News.  While the military, entitlements, and Homeland (in)Security keep taking more and more money, the rest of govt keeps getting cut and is expected to produce the same or more.

I wish this were true.  Alas, I fear it is not.  Long-term, Federal spending continues to trend upward, and Defense and Homeland Security have actually seen small cuts in the past couple of years.  Others, like HHS and State have seen massive increases. 

But I guess this is a topic for another thread.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2014, 05:59:18 AM »
Now I feel like watching Office Space for some reason.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2014, 09:26:39 AM »
Now I feel like watching Office Space for some reason.

It's one of the most accurate real life documentaries I've ever seen.  I'll watch it again this weekend if I can get through these damned TPS reports.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #25 on: November 29, 2014, 10:19:02 AM »
I now work at home full time and can usually get all of my work done for the day in about an hour.  I do have to attend many web-ex meetings where I multi-task and/or stare out the window--so that eats up another 3 to 4 hours a day.  I make $140,000 a year and work for a huge corporation.  I learned a long time ago to play the "I'm busy, busy, heads down" game.  For 20 years I have always really wondered if everyone else was also simply pretending to be busy too.

Early in my career, I was often told to slow down and quit finishing projects so fast.  When I was in the office, I learned the art of the "double lunch" which means you go to the gym at an odd time--maybe 10:00 AM or 2:30 PM and then take a second lunch break to actually eat lunch at your desk while reading a novel you downloaded to your desktop.  I also would take a daily walk around the huge corporate headquarters for an hour or so with a file folder in my hand.  These things made me look busy and killed time. 

I love working at home full time and think all companies should work this way.  It should not matter how many hours you work--you should be graded only on the quality of your work and getting it done on time and on (or under) budget. 

But I will soon be trying to orchestrate my own lay off . . . so that should be fun!


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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #26 on: November 29, 2014, 11:07:18 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.

HAHA!!! This describes my life perfectly! I always finish things very quickly, but that doesn't mean I do it badly, I am just really efficient! My boss on the other hand...FRAZZLED!!!! Always busy busy busy, but never getting anything done. Your email example...spot on...I observed her "composing" an email once...it would have taken me literally 30 seconds: 'Dear X, are you free to meet on this date..."...simple enough, but no, she spent at least 15min composing the email! Just today she wanted me to edit a certain model and was freaking out how long that will take me. I was like wtf lady....it takes like 30min...and that's exactly how long it took. But never mind, I still have to be in the office the whole day...even though only 50% of the time I actually work on things. The rest I am just bored...surfing the net or whatever. Of course that sounds like bliss to some people...but not for me...it's been too long like this. There are some (few) days when I am really challenged all day and have things to work on. Those are the days that I am happiest at work...because I am not bored.

+1

Unfortunately management wants to see asses in chairs.  People who put in tons of overtime to get their work done are considered fantastic employees rather than inefficient workers.  If you actually just did the work assigned and went home when it was done, you would be fired within a month . . . regardless of how well the work was completed.  So, here I surf.

+2 here, efficiency gives us A LOT of free time. And most of the time, our results are better !

At work, I'm a grunt. I'm the youngest person in the office AND lowest on the ladder. However, I get my stuff done efficiently. I hear comments from the older managers saying "bill this at 8 hours for the week", and realistically it takes me 4 or 5 hours of labor to do. Part of consulting I guess.Problem is, to be focussed like that, I need break time between these tasks, so in effect, it does take longer, but if I'm really under the gun, I can do 15 "hours of work" in 8 hours, but I come out the other side a mess. Still, I keep my 40 hour week (it's actually 45 with the lunch hour and more accurately 60 with commuting). Holidays (mid Nov - Mid Jan) is a very slow time for us, so I will take copious advantage of "working" for 3-4 hours a day and spending the rest of the time learning about finance or frugality or some such thing. I always ask for more work when I feel I don't have enough, and so I tend to be passed around as the extra help person, but even then, I don't got over my hours or more accurately I only work about 25 hours a week because efficiency is the shit.

secondcor521

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #27 on: November 29, 2014, 01:03:39 PM »
It amazes me that this is so prevalent.

I guess I should feel fortunate.  I manage a team of engineers at a technology company, and they are exactly graded and compensated on the amount of valuable work they provide and the quality and timeliness of that work.  Secondarily, they are graded on teamwork, customer focus, efficiency, and a couple of other traits I can't think of at the moment.  I just got together with three of my manager peers and we spent about two hours going through each engineer and discussing their performance in terms of those traits and abilities, which are going to directly affect who gets raises and how much, and who gets equity awards and how much.

I also can't imagine being "throttled" in terms of not being given more work to do if needed.  I've been working at this company for over five years and have literally had about two hours where I felt all caught up and their was nothing I could contribute to.  There is always more work to be done than people to do it.  And it is real work where the product is better and we make more money because of the effort.

I find too that if I stay productive the time goes by faster.  I'd like to think that always trying to contribute has been one of the factors that has led to my raises, equity, and promotions, but it may just be my raw good looks and the fact that I wear 48 pieces of flair every day.

Dr. Doom

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #28 on: November 29, 2014, 05:37:52 PM »
I've held a fairly wide variety of IT/Software jobs in my career and I feel obligated to post to this thread to state that yes, some of them were slow as the OP points out.  And yes, in these positions, even if you don't have enough work to do, you will find yourself playing the ultra-dreary I'm Really Busy game, just like everyone else.  This game is really just a subset of the How To Succeed At Work Without Really Trying game.

But I wanted to mention that a few of the jobs were very, very fast-paced, with more work to do in any given day than anyone could possibly get done.  I'm hardly an inefficient worker - I touch type, leverage existing knowledge to create solutions faster, hit up CWs for tips if I get stuck or blocked, and otherwise crank.

So, at least in my experience, there is a surprisingly large degree of variance between employers and positions.  It's a mistake to assume everyone who says they're working 50 hours a week is websurfing 40 of them away and then lying to CWs that they're amazingly busy all of the time.  Maybe they're only dorking off for 10 of them and the other 40 really are actually busy.  Startups in particular can be relentlessly intense.

Thankfully, I'm currently at a gig where I don't have enough to do and end up pretending I'm doing much more than I am.  I like that better than going nuts on tasks and projects all of the time, anyways. 

Rural

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #29 on: November 29, 2014, 05:54:24 PM »
I'm fortunate to be in a position where if I get done with what I need to do, I can go the fuck home. For that matter, if i can be more efficient at home, i can go the fuck home. The downside is that when I work a 60-hour week (common), it means I work for 60 hours. But nobody counts my hours but me - they look at what I actually do.

goodlife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #30 on: November 29, 2014, 07:00:27 PM »

Early in my career, I was often told to slow down and quit finishing projects so fast.  When I was in the office, I learned the art of the "double lunch" which means you go to the gym at an odd time--maybe 10:00 AM or 2:30 PM and then take a second lunch break to actually eat lunch at your desk while reading a novel you downloaded to your desktop.  I also would take a daily walk around the huge corporate headquarters for an hour or so with a file folder in my hand.  These things made me look busy and killed time. 



LOL, this is exactly what I do every day....or a version thereof....I have my own office..I so I even bring a book and read it for like 2 hours a day.


goodlife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #31 on: November 29, 2014, 07:04:10 PM »
What I also sometimes wonder, especially in my field...is why people are even doing these jobs in the first place after so many years? I can tell that a large percentage of them is really not that into it, probably totally bored or they outright resent it. But they are much older than me, I know what they must have been making, for some of them I also know that they come from very wealthy families. I am only there until I hit FI...why are all of these people still "working"? Maybe they have never thought of it? Or maybe they spent it all? I find that hard to imagine though.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #32 on: November 29, 2014, 08:16:03 PM »
In my 11+ years of being a full-time working adult, I've only had one job where I wasn't crushed under a mountain of work at all times, and that job was bliss. I would much rather be bored than stressed out at work - I can easily keep myself entertained. The only problem is, you can't exactly sell yourself that way at a job interview..."looking for someone who doesn't mind doing tedious, boring tasks for half the day and surfing the web for the other half? Then look no further!"

Dr. Doom

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #33 on: November 29, 2014, 08:39:53 PM »
Maybe they have never thought of it?

I have thoughts along these lines frequently, too, and I think the above question hits on the most likely answer.  If you know FI is a life choice, and this occurs to you while you're still young enough to do something about it, you can plan to get out or at least semi-retire, downshift your career, or move to something else entirely that may pay less but you'd be happier doing.  All it really takes is a good handle on your finances and being consistent over time in hitting your savings rate goals.  Bam!

The problem is that the top level default financial decision most people make is to blow through everything they earn, in one way or another.  Although the concepts around FIRE are not that difficult to pick up, it does require conscious spending and saving.  if you're aimlessly buying stuff, you will not 'accidentally' achieve FI unless you hit the lottery or get a large inheritance.  (And indeed, even those rare events are not enough for many people to sustain living indefinitely - a lot of people will just tear through ever larger piles of money until they're broke again.)

So here's how things develop for most people. Nearly everyone reflexively builds habitual spending into their lives until they are trapped by a need for their current level of income and must therefore keep grinding it out at work.  This produces a paycheck which, in turn, continues to (barely) fund the life they've architected for themselves.  People are capable of spending outrageous sums of money, particularly on cars, houses (multiple houses!  Or upgrading houses! Or remodeling houses!), and private schools.  Thing is, these things generate obligatory monthly outflows: mortgages, leases, contractors, landscapers, tuition.  And people convince themselves that those outflows are impossible to put a stop to, for one reason or another.

Let's say you're 50 and you're in the above situation (feeling financially trapped) and you've just found out that FIRE is a possible life option by reading an article about early retirement on Yahoo!  At this point in your existence you are much more likely to leave a comment like "THIS ARTICL. IS CRAP, IN AMERICA U WORK 4EVR" than you are to alter one iota of your lifestyle. 

And you'll leave this comment while at work, with an 11AM posting time, immediately prior to seeing a CW in the hallway and explaining for the Nth time how incredibly busy you are, now and forever, even though you've done nothing.

goodlife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #34 on: November 29, 2014, 11:21:58 PM »
Maybe they have never thought of it?



So here's how things develop for most people. Nearly everyone reflexively builds habitual spending into their lives until they are trapped by a need for their current level of income and must therefore keep grinding it out at work.  This produces a paycheck which, in turn, continues to (barely) fund the life they've architected for themselves.  People are capable of spending outrageous sums of money, particularly on cars, houses (multiple houses!  Or upgrading houses! Or remodeling houses!), and private schools.  Thing is, these things generate obligatory monthly outflows: mortgages, leases, contractors, landscapers, tuition.  And people convince themselves that those outflows are impossible to put a stop to, for one reason or another.



I suppose you are right and this is really how it is for these people...I just find it so hard to get my head around that. I am talking about people who make 400k a year...consistently over many years! Yet they are in their 40s and still working and hate their jobs, are either really bored or really burnt-out (even though I think it is often hard to know the different between the two). But yes, you are right in that they created a lifestyle for themselves that somehow is more like a prison sentence...they just don't seem to know how to get out of it. I have suggested to one or two of these people (who I am a bit closer to) that they could just quit and live of 50k per year and be fine forever...they thought I was nuts and recounted to me how even with a 400k income they can barely get by. In fact, one such person elaborated to me how he can save nothing even though he makes 400k per year and it's exactly that...expensive rent of some crazy apartment or house...or mortgage on some mansion...private school for two kids...etc. I guess the reason I can't see their spending is because these people are actually not flash. It's not fancy clothes, nice cars and Prada bags. Not at all actually, the way I observe them they seem quite regular people. But I guess it's all the spending that someone like me as an outside observer can't see...I have no idea about the private school tuition for their kids, how often they remodeled their house(s)...how much they spend on utilities alone to keep a place like this running etc.

Kind of sad really. And also explains why I never felt like I fitted into this environment very well. I often just look at people and wonder: what is everyone doing...and why are they doing it? Everyone is constantly just pretending to be busy and wants to suck up to people above them...while really not doing anything. A lot of the work I do, I secretly think to myself that this doesn't even make any sense. I sometimes really want to go to my boss's boss and tell him that none of this makes any sense and really someone should totally overthink the whole business model. But then I think this is pointless. Maybe everyone actually knows this too...but they just like keeping the status quo.

Also, if anyone read the Atlantic article that I linked to, there is this quote which I really think is true of a lot office workplaces:

"The key to career advancement is appearing valuable despite all hard evidence to the contrary. … If you add any actual value to your company today, your career is probably not moving in the right direction. Real work is for people at the bottom who plan to stay there.”

I feel like I was doing the most "real work" during my first two years after graduation. The further I move up, the less it is about working and more about pretending and sucking up to the person above you. FI can't come soon enough!

Adventine

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #35 on: November 29, 2014, 11:31:32 PM »
Maybe they have never thought of it?

I have thoughts along these lines frequently, too, and I think the above question hits on the most likely answer.  If you know FI is a life choice, and this occurs to you while you're still young enough to do something about it, you can plan to get out or at least semi-retire, downshift your career, or move to something else entirely that may pay less but you'd be happier doing.  All it really takes is a good handle on your finances and being consistent over time in hitting your savings rate goals.  Bam!

The problem is that the top level default financial decision most people make is to blow through everything they earn, in one way or another.  Although the concepts around FIRE are not that difficult to pick up, it does require conscious spending and saving.  if you're aimlessly buying stuff, you will not 'accidentally' achieve FI unless you hit the lottery or get a large inheritance.  (And indeed, even those rare events are not enough for many people to sustain living indefinitely - a lot of people will just tear through ever larger piles of money until they're broke again.)

So here's how things develop for most people. Nearly everyone reflexively builds habitual spending into their lives until they are trapped by a need for their current level of income and must therefore keep grinding it out at work.  This produces a paycheck which, in turn, continues to (barely) fund the life they've architected for themselves.  People are capable of spending outrageous sums of money, particularly on cars, houses (multiple houses!  Or upgrading houses! Or remodeling houses!), and private schools.  Thing is, these things generate obligatory monthly outflows: mortgages, leases, contractors, landscapers, tuition.  And people convince themselves that those outflows are impossible to put a stop to, for one reason or another.

Let's say you're 50 and you're in the above situation (feeling financially trapped) and you've just found out that FIRE is a possible life option by reading an article about early retirement on Yahoo!  At this point in your existence you are much more likely to leave a comment like "THIS ARTICL. IS CRAP, IN AMERICA U WORK 4EVR" than you are to alter one iota of your lifestyle. 

And you'll leave this comment while at work, with an 11AM posting time, immediately prior to seeing a CW in the hallway and explaining for the Nth time how incredibly busy you are, now and forever, even though you've done nothing.
You summed it up perfectly, Mr. Stark.

market timer

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #36 on: November 30, 2014, 06:43:44 AM »
I've been retired for about six months now, and am still trying to wean myself from the daily internet distractions I'd built into my work schedule.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 06:45:18 AM by market timer »

DoubleDown

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #37 on: November 30, 2014, 09:41:06 AM »
Maybe they have never thought of it?

I have thoughts along these lines frequently, too, and I think the above question hits on the most likely answer.  <snip>

Enjoyed this, thanks for posting

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #38 on: November 30, 2014, 10:07:11 AM »
I feel sorry for folks in that situation, either in reality or due to their own mindset.

Never had the feeling that there was nothing to do.  Quite the opposite: there was always more doable than time to do it.  Had the good fortune to work with and for very good people for the vast majority of my career.

Getting to FI did coincide with running into a few bad apples that were spoiling things at work and made it that much easier to go from FI to FIRE.

I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

Two different folks given the same task, with similar final results, but one is done in an instant, and the other turns the simple task into a major production.

It has nothing to do with education or intelligence.  My wife is very well educated, high experienced, and very intelligent, but she's one of those "busy busy busy" types- she just makes a mountain out of every molehill.  Frets over every minor detail.  Can't understand how "net surf" folks like myself can get so much work done and never have to work late.

So which employee is the "good" employee and which is the "bad?"  I figure if both are getting the job done for roughly the same salary, there is no "good" or "bad," just different.


You describe some of my coworkers.  According to my supervisor, busy,busy, busy is the "good" employee.  That is until she really needs something done.

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #39 on: November 30, 2014, 07:13:33 PM »
At my former job I wasn't very busy, and sometimes would take an "in office vacation day" where I showed up, but basically did nothing for the day. My current job is in accounting and we have to log our time. I do log half an hour each day as general office, which accounts for my bathroom trips or trips to get coffee or chat with co-workers. But I have the feeling that Big Brother is watching me. It's like one end of the spectrum to the other.

MsRichLife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #40 on: November 30, 2014, 08:25:48 PM »
I'm one of those efficient types and I've been pretty lucky in my recent jobs. All of my bosses have recognised how quickly I get stuff done and haven't battered an eyelid when I leave at 2-3 pm on a regular basis. I often wondered why my co-workers were always so 'busy', staying late and never getting everything done. I honestly thought I was missing a critical part of my job, but now I just accept that I can get things done in about 1/4-1/2 the time of others around me. If I had a boss 'expect' me to be sitting at my desk for 40 hours a week to maintain appearances, I'd be out of there.

vern

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #41 on: November 30, 2014, 11:57:36 PM »

Ozstache

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #42 on: December 01, 2014, 03:25:58 AM »
Work for me was always a bit of game for me as to how little effort I could put in yet still be far more productive than the average co-worker. Towards the end of my career, I got it down to a fine art, working feverishly for about 20-25% of the time and looking busy for the rest.

The key was to stand back from all the BS and pick out the couple of activities that would really make a difference to my work position's outcome and blitz them, then just fob off or poodle fake the rest. It was important not to be too productive with mundane tasks, as that tended to attract even more of them, which was counter-productive to the 'game'.

An unfortunate side effect, as mentioned a few times in this thread, was boredom. Work was not engaging enough to overcome this and alternatives could not be practically utilised enough to be effective. As a result, when I hit FI, RE followed soon after. It was the right decision: no more games!

golden1

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #43 on: December 01, 2014, 07:25:08 AM »
Quote
I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

There is a lot of truth to this.  My co-worker can spend 2 hours on his weekly status email.  I spend 5 minutes most weeks.  I can blow through reports very fast if I need to.  I also find a lot of people waste tons of time by getting sucked into unnecessary meetings, and spending hours talking to people in the office.  My job is such that I don't have tons of interactions with people which cuts down on the chit chat. 

I am in research, so the job is never really "done", but I am given a certain number of experiments to run in a given week.  The structure of the lab work I do means that there is just a lot of down time waiting for results.  There is only so much other stuff to do to fill in the time i.e. keeping up on your industry doings, researching new technologies, learning new skills etc... I probably spend 20-25 hours in any given week actually "working" on average.  It is also feast or famine - sometimes too much to do in a week, sometimes almost nothing.

goodlife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #44 on: December 01, 2014, 07:35:59 AM »
Work for me was always a bit of game for me as to how little effort I could put in yet still be far more productive than the average co-worker. Towards the end of my career, I got it down to a fine art, working feverishly for about 20-25% of the time and looking busy for the rest.

The key was to stand back from all the BS and pick out the couple of activities that would really make a difference to my work position's outcome and blitz them, then just fob off or poodle fake the rest. It was important not to be too productive with mundane tasks, as that tended to attract even more of them, which was counter-productive to the 'game'.

An unfortunate side effect, as mentioned a few times in this thread, was boredom. Work was not engaging enough to overcome this and alternatives could not be practically utilised enough to be effective. As a result, when I hit FI, RE followed soon after. It was the right decision: no more games!

I am pretty much heading down the same route and to be honest, I am rather sad about that fact. I am not a generally lazy person, it was never my intention to just bore myself through a few years of work until I hit FI and then I can go chill out and kiss the real world goodbye. I am not a lazy person. When I was still in school, I was genuinely looking forward to applying my skills in a meaningful well, I was excited about entering the working world and I really didn't see it as some kind of horrible ordeal that I had to go through for a few years until my bank account balance had grown big enough. I really only stumbled on this whole FI concept not too long ago because the working world just didn't turn out the way I expected it to. I am so sick of being either bored or working on stuff that I know full well is pretty meaningless and in most cases useless as well. I am just not the type who can work away like a busy bee on something that I know is rather useless. I know many people who can do that and keep themselves occupied that way. But for me, I just can't, I always question what the point of any given task is and if I can clearly tell that there really is no point, then I'd rather not do it (and 99% of the time nobody even notices, which only confirms that I was right from the beginning). But I really wish I could find something to do where this is not the case. I have only worked for 5.5 years. In 3 years (maybe less) I will be FI. But I find it all rather disappointing that I wouldn't have been able to do more with my talents.

Target2018

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #45 on: December 01, 2014, 08:12:07 AM »
I have been working from home for the past 15+ years and it was such a relief to be able to blitz tasks when I had them and then be able to do things around the house, like laundry or cooking.  At least you don't have to pretend to be busy because no one can see you.  I still get more done than most of the others in my department but without the stress of having to pretend all day.  Only 40 months until FIRE keeps me going.

Dr. Doom

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2014, 08:43:13 AM »
I am talking about people who make 400k a year...consistently over many years!

How to blow through 400K/yr, a primer:
1.  105K/yr - taxes
2.  120K/yr - PITI + landscaping + house cleaners for 6000 sq. foot 2.5 mil home on 3 acres.
3.  80K/yr - premium private school for 2 children
4.  30K/yr -- Own 3 50K cars, rotate one of them out every 3 years, trade in the old model.

You are now locked into 295K of mandatory yearly spending and have "only" 105K left.  This will go fast:  clothes, food and drink, 15-20K of vacations, utilities, media and phone packages, club memberships, golf equipment, christmas spending, charitable giving, hosting parties, and the odd home renovation.

Worse, were you suddenly inclined to "cut back" on expenses, the only area you would consider touching is going to be in the 105K bucket.  But no amount of trimming in that area is going to fix your biggest mandatory expenses.  You've got to drastically change your lifestyle in order to increase your savings rate -- and at that point, you fear having your family hate you, losing social connections, and basically becoming a pariah in your circle.

A lot of the work I do, I secretly think to myself that this doesn't even make any sense. I sometimes really want to go to my boss's boss and tell him that none of this makes any sense and really someone should totally overthink the whole business model.
Yeah.  I get the feeling I'm not in the same industry as you, but still, I go through the same questioning.  Not everybody feels the need to get all existentialist about work though, which is why we get what we have.  People say things like "It is what it is" and other meaningless statements to explain why they're doing what they're doing -- as if that's a satisfactory answer. 

Note:  10:41AM US-ET post time.  Yep, I'm at work.  Must not be enough to do today.


mak1277

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #47 on: December 01, 2014, 10:19:05 AM »
Quote
I think some of this may have to do with how people perform their jobs.

Some people are very focused and efficient.  They grab a task and bear down on it, killing it quickly.  They tend to need far less than the "normal" amount of time to perform a task, and hence often find themselves with a lot free time on the job.  Since most employers in a traditional setting expect their employees to be sitting in the office for "x" hours per day, these folks need to find fillers (surfing the net, BSing, etc).

Others, doing the same job, looked frazzled for 12-hours per day.  Always busy, busy, busy.  Never a free moment to relax, it's just go go go.  They work long hours.  Get in early, leave late.  Yet they often get no more done than Mr. "Net Surf."  I think it's because these folks are typically NOT well focused- they are easily distracted by other "work" related items (emails, phone calls, meetings, cake parties, whatever).  They might be the type to over analyze everything and take forever to make a decision.  That can be something as simple as taking an hour to send out a simple 2-paragraph email.   They have to use just the right words- they write the email, erase it, think about it, rewrite it, edit it, then finally send it out.  In the end, that email is no better than if they had just banged it out in 5 minutes like Mr. "Net Surf."  You can imagine how inefficient these kind of folks can be preparing reports or conducing any other long term project.

The "busy busy busy" person could spend hours executing the master plan to acquire just the right donuts for the weekly staff meeting.  She'd check with everyone personally and find out what kind of donut they want and what brand they prefer.  She'd make a list and check it thrice.  It would take her 2-hours, and she'd look busy, busy, busy the entire time.  Mr. Net surf, given the same task, would call Dunkin Donuts and ask for 24-assorted donuts.  Total time: 2-minutes- leaving him plenty of time to surf the net or play.

There is a lot of truth to this.  My co-worker can spend 2 hours on his weekly status email.  I spend 5 minutes most weeks.  I can blow through reports very fast if I need to.  I also find a lot of people waste tons of time by getting sucked into unnecessary meetings, and spending hours talking to people in the office.  My job is such that I don't have tons of interactions with people which cuts down on the chit chat. 

I am in research, so the job is never really "done", but I am given a certain number of experiments to run in a given week.  The structure of the lab work I do means that there is just a lot of down time waiting for results.  There is only so much other stuff to do to fill in the time i.e. keeping up on your industry doings, researching new technologies, learning new skills etc... I probably spend 20-25 hours in any given week actually "working" on average.  It is also feast or famine - sometimes too much to do in a week, sometimes almost nothing.

The corollary to this, I think, is that some people embrace the concept of "good enough" and others won't quit until something is letter perfect.  I've always been able to quit working when something is good enough, and not waste time getting things exactly right.  Some people just don't have the ability to do that.

AgileTurtle

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #48 on: December 01, 2014, 01:25:38 PM »
I am laughing so hard at this post because it is so true. I worked making processes of a business more efficient. Tried to automate work. Turns out most people do not work very much in an office and the most successful people are the ones that can pretend to work the best.

MsRichLife

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Re: The art of not working at work
« Reply #49 on: December 01, 2014, 03:08:08 PM »
I am laughing so hard at this post because it is so true. I worked making processes of a business more efficient. Tried to automate work. Turns out most people do not work very much in an office and the most successful people are the ones that can pretend to work the best.

I used to work in business improvement too. I remember one workplace we were trying to help, where there was so much push back on trying to improve the workflow because the boss actually liked being the last one in the office every evening. She liked being seen to be working late every night and being out after the big boss. I just shook my head and walked away from that job. I cannot understand failing to optimise your workflow and working unnecessary hours as a result.