Value for time

Time is money

As a freelancer, oftentimes (it’s an Americanism, I like it, get over it) I am paid by the hour. Alternatively, I am paid a flat fee for an amount of work. In terms of time AND money, it is for my own benefit that I do not waste the former and miss out on the free type of the latter.

Time is finite

I don’t just want to save on work time, but also on personal time. If you have three or four hours of family time a day, say, and you lose a couple of those to admin because you’ve already done seven or eight hours on your paid project, then you have all of a sudden lost this family time in favour of busywork. What if this happens once a week? That’s potentially 208 hours a year. Even taking a few weeks off for holiday and a few for weeks you didn’t need to do it, this might easily come to five days a year. That’s A WHOLE WORKING WEEK that you’ll never see again.

Time is of the essence

Busywork (I have learnt, ironically from procrastireading*), is BAD. It wastes your time.

I try to deal with things immediately and quickly.

  • Email: reply, add to a to-do-list, archive or delete.
  • Answer the call, otherwise you’ll just have to take it or return it later.
  • Go paperless: scan that doc, save it and bin it (or shred it, if you’re paranoid about personal data, like me). Otherwise it’ll be lurking in a pile on your desk for weeks. And don’t print anything unless it’s REALLY necessary.

Busywork is the admin-type work you have to do to organise things, but it brings you no profit — in money, time, nor enjoyment. This is very important if you are a freelancer and have what is, to all intents and purposes, your own business.

If you work for an organisation which allows ((un)consciously encourages?) busywork, perhaps in the form of bureaucratic form-filling or documentation procedures that seem to have no known purpose, or the persistently inefficient use of emails at an organisational level, well… it’s different.

Time is running out

It’s different for the individual in this narrative of corporate chaos, but not for the business. An organisation whose employees are drowning in busywork is going to fail. Not quickly. But slowly. And painfully.

Last one switch off the lights.

For the individual, on the other hand, there are two sides to the chaotic coin. On the negative side this means irritation and stress, because through having to do STUFF that isn’t really part of what you are actually paid to do, you can’t get on with your real work. However, on the positive side, you can tell your boss that:

“It really is FRIGHTFULLY unfortunate that the deadline had to slip three days, but the documentation took AGES to complete (and the Word formatting thing X had done didn’t really work, which meant I had to create a new document from scratch), then I had to find so-and-so to sign it, but she wasn’t in so I had to wait. I asked Y if I could get Z to sign it but she said that Z wasn’t senior enough…

…and you were on a jolly, so, well, shit happens.”

And the thing is, as an employee, YOU STILL GET PAID.

I used to try to be efficient while I was an employee. I even spent time trying to streamline systems, use innovative methods of communication, and come up with better ways of doing things. Now that I’m my own boss, these things are the difference between success and failure on a personal level.

I try to organise myself in order to make best use of my time. This has been, and will continue to be, a struggle, but I think I’ve got some things sussed.

* Procrastiread (verb): to disappear down a rabbit hole of online content when you are supposed to be working. Not including idle scrolling on Facebook, Twitter or suchlike, for this does not constitute reading.

Someone else has a different definition here. Though I think they should just use ‘avoid finishing’, it’s only one more syllable.

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