Perceived Uselessness vs. Productivity

Mitch HobishProductivity

Over the years, I’ve noticed (or have had it pointed out to me) that, when faced with an impending deadline or having to deal with a major project that I’d really rather not address on a given day, I find it necessary to diddle with my computer systems.

I’ll update drivers, install new software, or just rearrange things on the desktop—all of which leave me feeling quite accomplished and pleased, but without making noticeable progress towards my real goal.  Oh, I get it all done eventually—with high quality, on schedule, and within budget (as is my wont)—but in retrospect it all seems terribly inefficient.

So, this item, which I found today as part of the Word.A.Day email service delivery, struck a responsive chord. I offer it for your consideration:

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. – Peter Drucker, management consultant, professor, and writer (1909-2005)

I often argue (usually with myself, and therefore quite successfully) that the time spent in the nominally useless activity actually gave me room to do some background processing, but I have to wonder what else I could have done, were I to have been more efficient in my use of time.

Questions:  How often do you pat yourself on the back for doing something well, even if it didn’t need doing in the first place?  Why did you do it in the first place?  What did you gain by doing it?  What did you lose?