Tuesday, October 09, 2007


One of the pleasures of my job is interviewing people I’m writing articles about. The other day I spoke to a chap called Oliver Nyumbu, who’s an expert on work-life blend. One of the things he said resonated particularly with me.

He said:
“When I ask people how they’re doing in their job, they tell me they’re very busy. Somehow we’ve confused being busy with being effective.”

I see that all the time in my office, but also outside it. I think one of the reasons church attendances are always reported as declining is because churches are so busy trying to keep the church going, they never stop to ask ‘is this actually effective?’

Another aspect of my job involves me choosing to carve out head-space. I do this in a number of ways, including going for a wander round the building and chatting to people, doodling in an old diary, and writing non-work things to get the words flowing out of my brain and onto the screen.

I was asked today how I can write in a limited time; how do I manage to produce stuff on demand. I can’t really answer questions like that, but I think a lot of it is to do with being honest about needing a bit of creative space. You can’t run a machine at maximum productivity at 100% of the time. It needs downtime or the whole thing will blow up in your face. So why do we think we can operate our cranial processors at maximum, every single working minute of every single working day, without the system crashing?

I guess one reason why people in charge like to see everyone busy is it gives the (sometimes false) impression that stuff is getting done. On a personal level, make-work bores me, and when I’ve had managers who think their effectiveness is measured by how busy everyone is and so start allotting random tasks, my effectiveness tends to go out the window.

At the risk of sounding big-headed, I can write to order, and produce under pressure. And the reason I can do that is because I don’t care so much whether I look busy, but I do try to ensure I’m effective. That’s one of the reasons why ‘management-by-making-you-do-stuff’ doesn’t inspire me at all. I like to be told what’s needed, and when it’s needed by, and then sent off to do it. And then I do it.

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