Casio watch

The Timely Art of Work

Early in my career, I remember a youngish senior director who worked from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. He rarely came in early or left late. You could almost set your Casio watch by his schedule.

This was a busy and fast paced company, and there was always plenty to do. But he rarely wavered from his schedule.

He always got his work done. He was no one’s bottleneck.

As you might expect, he was often the subject of snark and ridicule for his eight-hour day, mostly by his peers. The rest of us thought he was a rock star.

He was knowledgeable, accessible and easy to be around.

One time I asked him if it bothered him that people made fun of his seemingly slacker work ethic.

“If you stop and think about it, eight hours is a pretty long time to do anything,” he responded. “If you can’t get the work done in eight hours, you’re either not really working or you might be working for the wrong reasons.”


If I hadn’t been so young I might have paid closer attention to his comment. At the time, I just thought he was being clever.

You may think your bursting schedule and overflowing to-do list is a testament to your unwavering work ethic and commitment. But it could also be a subconscious effort to seek validation.

It’s easy to use work to prove our worth, not just to others but also to ourselves. We learn early on in life to validate ourselves based on our output or the accolades we get.

That’s not inherently bad, but if working yourself to near burnout is the only way you can feel good about yourself, it may be time to unlearn some deeply held beliefs and habits.

When you learn how to operate within your capacity, you leave room for creativity, growth and satisfaction.

That sounds like the right reason to me.


How Do You Spend Your Downtime?

Cal Newport has done some great work in the area of deep work and productivity. If you are trying to get your act together and produce meaningful work, his books and such will get you where you need to go.
Here he has some interesting insight on the way we spend our down time. In the first 20 minutes of this episode, he breaks down the differences between slow distractions and fast distractions, and how they affect us.

Key takeaways for me:

  • “The idle mind is anxiety’s playground.”
  • Two new words I can now use at cocktail parties:
    • simulacrum
    • interstertial