April was a hectic month. I spent a total of three weeks on the road shooting videos and managing several projects from a remote location, which is never an easy task. It was grueling. It was stressful. It was self-gratifying.
The busier we are, the more important we feel. Sometimes I think people secretly compete to see who can be the last one in the office just because they believe that the time they spend at work is directly proportional to their productivity. You may just be watching YouTube videos or chatting on instant messenger until seven o’clock. You may have arrived at work late or taken a three hour lunch. You may just type slow and take twice as much time to do a typical workload. Regardless of the reason, you still feel like you’re the king or queen of the world when you step out into that empty parking lot at the end of the day. The lot that’s filled with the spaces of your slacker peers.
I used to use our office gym after work and it amazed me how satisfied I felt when I emerged at the end of the day to empty cubicles and dark conference rooms. I wasn’t even putting in extra work time. I was literally dragging my sweaty ass across a treadmill for forty minutes. Yet I still felt, because I was the last to leave, that I was a better employee than everyone else.
The same thing goes for emails. I still get a feeling of self-satisfaction when I send an email off at 10pm. I might have just picked up my phone and responded with a simple “ok” to something and then went to bed. That’s not the point. The point is that somebody now thinks I was hard at work when I should have been doing personal things like playing video games, doing laundry, or organizing my record collection by the color of the album art.
And then there’s travel. After returning from a long business trip, I usually set aside one day to gloat about it. I did it on Friday after I got back from New England
“How was your trip?” My colleagues asked.
“Just brutal!” I said. Then I went on to describe my busy itinerary using words and phrases like “whirlwind,” “jam-packed” and “but it’s part of the job, so…”
“Oh yeah?” They responded, uninterested.
“Yeah.” I said. “I need a drink and then I need to take a few days to recover because of all the busy things I did. It was so busy! You don’t even know. The amount of business that was done was simply staggering. It was a whirlwind.”
I gave the same response to anyone who asked that day. This would have applied to a child with Leukemia and a soldier who just returned from Iraq.
It’s misguided. I’m first to admit that. I believe an employee should be judged by the work they accomplish and not the amount they appear to work. Is working late nights or weekends sometimes necessary? Sure. Can travel be a pain? Absolutely. But if nothing comes out of it, there’s no point. And not having a life is nothing to be proud of because your hobbies, friends, family and outside experience is going to make you so much more than a mindless drone who brings nothing new to the table. You might not be “productive” 24/7, but one groundbreaking idea can be worth so much more than a thousand PowerPoints and Excel sheets that are seen once and then tossed.
Do amazing work. In the end it’s a lot more gratifying than timing all your emails to be sent out several hours after you fall asleep at night. If you don’t do amazing work, that email trick is certainly worth a try.