The theater of work.

Acouple of years ago I wrote a blog post that outlined two New Year’s resolutions I’d put to paper—one of which was to “do more work.” More recently I quipped about changing my job description to read: “drafts and responds to emails about marketing and brand.”  So much for resolutions…

Welcome to what I call “The Theater of Work,” where passing time passes as labor, and everyone’s output is considered equal. To be clear here, “The Theater of Work” is about playing business; it’s about inputs and feedback loops (read: emails, meetings, and conversation) not tangible outputs. And it’s a problem.

Last month I quickly flipped through Donald Rumsfeld’s book “Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life,” (don’t ask!) and came across a remarkable insight—yes, from Donald Rumsfeld—he wrote, “If you’re working from your inbox, you’re working on other people’s priorities.” Damn.

With that in mind I decided to push forward with business as usual—but to track things as I went for two weeks to see how things netted out with respect to work. In that 10-day timeframe I received 423 emails (excluding junk mail) and responded directly to 382, averaging about 38 responses per day. With regard to meetings, I averaged 3 per day, about 30 hours total. Lump that all together, factor in an hour or so for lunch each day and I’m left with 1-2 hours per day to perform actual work. Damn.

Next week I’ve decided that instead of playing business, I’m going to do a bit of good ole fashion work. I’m going to forget about my inbox, and roll up my sleeves. I encourage all of you to do the same. And I’d l.o.v.e. to hear about how it goes! Emails and meetings have been passing as “work” for far too long. It’s time to retire the show!