Sunday, July 8, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek Continued: Shell-Gaming The Boss

Tim Ferriss makes a second major point in his bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek, and it was one that touched rather closely upon my own heart.

And then it kind of made me go "eurgh" a little.

The thesis: that most office work can be completed in about half the time of a normal workday, and that we spend too much time in our cubicles either dinking around on the internet/talking to our neighbors/etc. or getting swamped in inefficient sidetrackers.

I'll vouch to this idea that we're wasting a lot of time in offices. Certainly my experience this summer has been that I can accomplish things in much less time than expected.

I'll also vouch to the idea that the modern office is full of inefficiency. I spent the last week, for example, filling in for a coworker on vacation and sitting at her desk/using her Outlook/etc. because it was faster than trying to get me unique access to all of her programs and files.

This woman had her email set up to send notifications every time A. an outgoing message arrived in the recipient's inbox and B. the outgoing message was opened by the recipient.

Thus, for every email she sent (and I sent, from her computer), she got two in return. Two emails which contained somewhat specious information and which then had to be managed. This is exponentially ridiculous.

Anyway. Ferriss notes this, and then proposes a solution.

One can't just go to the boss, Ferriss writes, and say "I'm doing all my assigned work in half the time -- may I spend the rest of the day at home?"

This will only result in one's being assigned twice as much work to do. ^__^

No, Ferriss' solution is to trick the boss, using the following method:

1. Begin to slowly minimize productivity in the office.

2. Call in a few (fake) sick days. During those sick days, work at maximum productivity and accomplish something amazing. Make sure to document.

3. Go to boss and say "Wow -- look at how much work I was able to get done at home, even when I was sick! It must be because I was able to work without the distractions of the office. What if I were to try working at home for a day or two each week?"

4. Use sophisticated sales techniques (Ferriss teaches these) to ensure boss says yes. Spend all time at the office being ridiculously unproductive, and all time at home being overwhelmingly productive.

5. Use the evidence produced in Step 4 (and the hard sell technique) to gain yourself the opportunity to work full-time from home.

6. Do office work from home in 1/2 time, use the other half to begin building your cadre of desis, and continue to collect your paycheck.

Hmmm. A fail-proof method, yes? ^__^

Ferriss doesn't note, of course, what one should do if one is part of the large contingent of American employees paid by the hour. Or what one should do if one works for a company who monitors computer use and keystrokes and thus would know exactly what you've been doing during those cubicle "unproductive" days. ("Boss, he's had the spreadsheet open on his computer for four hours, but hasn't made a single keystroke. What's going on?")

Or what one should do if the company requires one to complete a timesheet every hour detailing what has been accomplished. (The company I've been temping for just initiated this last week, and it's driving the poor office ladies crazy, as they -- like me -- don't really have enough busywork to fill all eight hours and so use the time inbetween tasks to share pictures of grandchildren and cats and to talk about things like Weight Watchers. And they're terrified that they will either be downsized, or will be given twice as much work to do.)

What do you think? Shall we test Ferriss' method?


Daniel said...

No, he's a tool.

No one can be productive all the time. That's one of the huge problems w/ his premise. When you're at home, you've got the distractions of kids, tv, cooking, cleaning, etc. When you're at work, you've got coworkers, the internet, and computer card games like freecell (yay freecell!). Humans aren't built to be working all the time. We get bored, we get distracted, and we just don't do it. This guy's totally neglecting human nature, and is promoting a philosophy that will fail.

Blue said...

Ah, but the part I should have mentioned is the final step: once you've hired the desis to do all of your work, and have created some online product that practically sells itself (Ferriss sells "memory-enhancing drugs" called BrainQUICKEN), then you quit the day job and let the desis handle the online business.

So you only have to be super-productive for a finite period of time.

Daniel said...

And yet, somehow it seems completely impossible. Memory-enhancing drugs don't exist. No successful person works really hard for a bit and then stops working altogether. That's just not possible. No.

I don't like him, I don't like his exploitation of peoples, and I don't like his promotion of such imperialist ideals. We've moved past that as a society--I don't want us to revert.