3 min read

Pretending to Work Hard

I was reminded today about a colleague I had 20 years ago (dang, that sounds like a long time) who would schedule emails to go out at two or three in the morning. He would then show up to work at about 11am or so, often unshaven, and talk about how late he worked.

Except... he didn't actually work until 2 or 3am. I know, because I was there, working that late often, and he wasn't.

At first, he said that he did all that work from home. This was in the time of Blackberries being the hot new thing, and junior people like me didn't have them. So, for a while, we believed that he was doing all of this amazing work on that device... until we got five seconds with a Blackberry and realized that it couldn't do what he was doing, which was redline documents.

We finally figured out that he was scheduling things to send and finishing up work at the relatively civil hour of 8 or 9pm.

the day russell learned how to schedule emails
No, the person who I learned this from wasn't named Russell

I was impressed. I wanted to try this myself. I actually did it a few times, and then was told that there was a typo somewhere, and I would have to schlep the 15 minutes back to the office to correct it and resend. I gave up, but I never lost that spirit.

The next time I found myself in a corporate setting, I went back to that well. There were no brownie points for working super-late in that organization, but I would have been penalized for finishing work as quickly as I was capable of doing. I still finished the work quickly; I would then schedule it all to go out at the end of the day, or maybe at the end of the next day.

Next, I figured out how to circumvent the corporate intranet and blocks on the various sites that were deemed a waste of time, and I spent my time playing on the Internet and, eventually, building the first iteration of Hopara, which was a site that let people book activities on vacation (think surf lessons and the like).

When I would take long vacations, I would schedule emails to go out during my vacation so it looked like I was one of those people who couldn't go away from my desk. In reality, I didn't even have a way of checking my emails on some of those holidays, because I was in the middle of nowhere.

People are always trying to tell everyone else about productivity hacks and life hacks and all other types of BS that supposedly makes you work smarter. As I wrote yesterday, I have some processes in place to help me manage lots of disparate tasks. These largely boil down to turning off notifications everywhere.

But what people never seem to get is that the world isn't actually about your productivity. It's about two things: first, can you make someone else money. If you can do that, you're in great shape. And second, it's about perceived effort. My scheduling email (and my colleagues doing the same) is about perception. There's no real point in being hyper-efficient if other people don't know about it.

The perception of productivity is almost impossible to keep up if you can't actually get the work done, which is why delegation is so important – it doesn't matter who does the work. It matters that the work gets done.

But that's a post for another time... like tomorrow (which will be a subscriber exclusive, so if you're interested, subscribe now and get it tomorrow).

Other neato stuff

Tee hee:

Broken from webcomics

Remember that show Life after People? I loved it. Everyone else I knew thought it was kind of creepy. Anyway, here's what's going to happen to our cities after people, according to the BBC.

That's it for today!

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