August 12, 2020

Hardworking yet Unproductive ? Maybe its time for a redemption

Ever wondered what is stopping you from unleashing your full potential? Is it your lifestyle? Or your workload? Or something else? Its just a matter of when you realize that the issues bogging you down are so trivial that you could have dealt with them so long ago.

Hardworking yet Unproductive ? Maybe its time for a redemption

Hey Guys, your regular Indian IT Sector Common Cajoler here. While I would otherwise not have been writing this (trust me, I don't quite like writing) the reason why I am here is that I have recently been through enlightenment and want to share it with all of you.

Seems kind of out of a spot for me, right? A 9 to 6 salaryman struggling with house rent, credit card bills and laundry attaining enlightenment all of a sudden?

But it happened. All of a sudden, like most things in this otherwise unpredictable life, do.

“So it came to me during a long walk alone in the rain, what it would have been like to control the weather. Funny though, but say thunderstorm, rain, sunshine, snow - whenever you want, whatever you want.”
man walking along the sidewalk after it has rained
A Virtue of Rains? Even something as dull as a city springs to life

It was a fine Saturday evening and a walk in the gentle rain - excellent way to unwind! Isn't it?

All the while lost in thoughts, I arrived at our local tea stall and mechanically enough found myself in conversation with the stall owner. After a round of usual conversation, I shared the thoughts that I had just hopped upon, with him.

“You are an IT guy, Sir, as it is you guys do wonders! Of course, you can control the weather”, he said after thinking for a while.

“Haha! Really?”, I asked, kind of amused.

“Sir, have a look at this, I tap, its sunshine! I tap, it rains, I tap, it's windy, Another tap and it snows.”

“Oh, it's beautiful !”, said I, all the while amused at his new live wallpaper.

Screenshot of a live wallpaper depicting rain, running on an android tablet
A Live Wallpaper depicting rain

An auspicious piece of software. The same we come across on a daily basis, glided by the imagination of a creative person.

“Today, you can control the weather on-screen, tomorrow you might as well control the weather in reality”, he added.

Wanting to have another short walk in the light rain, I left his shop, promising to return in 5 minutes. It was then that I was struck by deep thought. I was introspecting - “What exactly was holding me back? It wasn't hard work, it wasn't mettle and it wasn't punctuality, then what exactly was it? Was it the nature of my job? The long hours? That tremendous amount of work?”

And just that moment, as if nature had planned it so, I came across a post reflecting the same set of thoughts on Facebook.

Even before a 5-minute time frame could have passed the comment section was pouring with comments, suggestions, ideas and replies of all sorts spinning the entire agenda around.

Some comments were really engaging and some others were amusing as usual. There were torrents of opposing views, hues, cries, callouts and insults before the discussion came to a much predictable and conclusion less end, when I finally decided to make my way back to the tea stall.

The shop owner was packing up when he spotted me.

“Array Sir, you have returned?” he asked with a tinge of surprise, ”I hadn't expected you would be coming back today”, said he all the while hurriedly unpacking a box where he kept his wares.

bike riders on a street in front of a tea vendor, late in the night
Tea Stall, the adreno of India

“I said I’ll be back in 5 minutes, Didn’t I? Just took me slightly longer, that's it.”

“Slightly longer? Sir, you have been out for 2 straight hours now!” said he, pointing to the HUD clock on this screen.

“Damn . . . .  I . . .  “, said I, for a moment unable to actuate what had just happened.

But then, as if some rain God would have dictated it, all of a sudden I realized everything that had just happened and had been happening for so long.

I, you, all of us IT guys here, and not just IT guys for that fact, most of us working-class people out there, we have been wasting just too much time on distractions. Distractions that are meaningless, unproductive and addictive in nature. Distractions that can easily be avoided for our own good.

The following week I tried an experiment. I decided to keep a tab on this wasted time. You will be surprised to realize that out of my 8-hour workday, I was wasting anywhere between 2 to 2.5 hours daily on distractions. Which means, on a weekly basis, I was wasting more than 12.5 hours or upwards of an entire day on unproductive work!

man standing on the floor and touching his chin perhaps reflecting upon something
Contemplating

Useful hours that could have otherwise been invested in innovating something, meditating, learning a new skill, or simply relaxing. The trouble doesn't end there, the amount of work that is leftover thanks to this waste of time, has to be carried back home and done in the time that is otherwise our personal time.

In fact, this issue, known as "Cyberslacking" or "Goldbricking", has been infesting our work culture for long. It was with these thoughts in mind that I decided to request our IT department to block certain categories of websites, for my particular team (DevOps) just as an experiment to begin with:

Streaming Websites

Not bound by any censor boards, online streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime are pushing the limits of human emotions and perspectives and in turn drawing in huge crowds. While all that is excellent from an entertainment point of view, it remains a serious threat to productivity.

person holding remote pointing at TV watching netflix
Netflix: The Giant

“A 2019 research conducted by Florida State University concludes that about 37% of Netflix users and 33% of Hulu users admitted to streaming at work.”

Putting these stats into perspective, one in every three employees is killing time watching Narcos on any particular day, so if you aren’t, then probably one of your coworkers on either side of your cubicle is. One thing that is crystal clear, however, is that not a lot of work is getting done. It would be worth your while to block streaming websites like- HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, etc on the office network.

Social Media

It’s a bright sunny day, you feel really great and want to express it to the entire world. What could be better than a Facebook post with an image of a bouquet of Daffodils and a nice short poem or quote?

person using both laptop and smartphone
Social Media

But damn! As soon as you log in, you see a post that you find offensive. You can't stand the insult of your opinion/ideology/endorsement. You immediately engage in a meaningless online brawl that only ends after having wasted hours of your useful time and mood.

Just ask yourself- Is it really worth wasting time sending across opinions no one quite cares about? Of course, your marketing wing still needs access to Social Media, but your Development team or your Account team doesn’t.

Online Gaming

Some of you are not going to agree since “Gaming” is a trans world definition all by itself. Some games like Rapid Chess and Go Online can actually help develop strategic thinking, but that is not what we quite like. Do we? Maybe a meagre 1% of us do, but as for the rest, we just wanna brawl and shoot the hell outta certain level-specific number of Aliens / Nazis / Soviets / Other random villains.

person holding white and black xbox one game controller
Game On! But not during Office Hours

What is even more, the rise of online gaming has made matters worse, by adding a human element to what earlier used to be simply dumb AI has made games all the more addictive. Video games work in a way similar to how drugs do- there is a cue and then there is a reward.

The cycle of defeat, victory, cue, and reward is so enticing that you might end up wasting hours at a stretch even before you even realize. This, of course, is not at all productive for your career, apart from being unprofessional on your part.

Online Shopping

Experts say, any average individual who shops often and forms around 10-11% of the populace, can find him/herself spending around 2-3 hours online every day.

“According to Ruth Engs from Indiana University, some people, as they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive.”
person using laptop computer holding card
Don't Disturb, I'm shoppin

Shopping online is an activity that could go on for long long hours since it is passive enough unless the searcher is somehow overcome by a sense of urgency. Blocking Online Shopping sites can definitely avoid unnecessary distraction.

Inappropriate Websites

Lastly, but most importantly, websites that must be blocked are the ones that are inappropriate, malicious, promote scam or are offensive/adult in nature. Apart from being highly unprofessional and heinous, they could land you in legal trouble. They can also pose a security risk to your employers, career, network and devices. Incidents where employees have been honey-trapped and then blackmailed into divulging organizational secrets are a commonplace nowadays.

To SUM all that Up . . . .

Dealing with these inhibitions at the workplace is tough at first, but rewarding as one progresses. Since I have been practicing these restraints, I have been able to sort my life in a much better manner. Honestly, this has benefitted not just me, but my team as well. I have saved huge amounts of time that I have now invested in learning a few new skills and guess what? I have been getting innovative ideas on how to actually control the weather. Haha. Feel free to discuss with me what is your take on these issues! Cheers and happy reading!