Why I love doing non-productive bull-shit work

Don’t squeeze yourself with only important core tasks, but stuff mundane tasks in between. As a result, you’ll never feel overloaded with work, leading to happiness and more productive days.

After moving from Morpheus, I joined the founding team of an early-stage startup based out of Sunnyvale. At Bitzer Mobile, we are trying to build some brand new guns for the enterprise mobility sector. Developing the product is easy—whoosh your laptop and write code. Soon we raised some money and started building a team out of Bangalore.

Team started growing, members got added and the amount of non-code generating work also grew, right from sundry runs to bank  to mundane activities of settling the bill of the neigboring chai-walla on a daily basis.

Writing code requires at least 4 uninterrupted hours to have at least something productive done. If not for the night, it would have been impossible to find that time slice. When I was a one man team without a formal company in India, life was easy. Now, we are eight and the overheads of running a business have started to show. Nor we are twenty that we could hire support staff who could do random runs.

RainbowbeeeaterInitially, I used to bitch and moan how things got pulled under the rug due to interruptions. But, then I changed something. Instead of expecting a 4-hour time slice, I created intense 90-120 minute time slices. At each break, inter-twined the life with things which could be done by a support staff. For example, few weeks ago, I had to write half-a-dozen salary checks, which took a quanta of 10-minute; figuring out the exact amount, signing, stamping, sealing in a brown envelope and then delivering them to the respective desk. Earlier, I would push this task under the stack and keep bothering myself. This time, I planned the same. I walked into the office at 10:30a. Did a Skype call with a US colleague, started fixing a bug and then at around 2:00pm signed the checks and delivered them. Made me feel happy and was back to the groove for the next round and then after few hours called the furniture vendor inquiring about the status of our delivery and doing some general light-weight argument over the phone.

One super side-benefit after adopting this strategy; sundry items which were getting postponed were getting done and were no longer lingering at the back of my mind and bothering!

And when there is no bull-shit work around, I simply call a candidate and do a phone interview for 15 minutes.

Here’s a simple recipe.

  1. When your day begins make a list of 4-5 mundane tasks which you should be doing today. As simple as downloading a copy of the bank statement and sending it to the accountant. The task could be as minimum as 10 minutes. If there is something which takes hours and not urgent, plan for it on a Friday, like going to the bank, etc.
  2. Once you have the tasks identified, start your day as you would and pick each task after couple of hours and get that done.
  3. Your core important tasks may be one of writing code, doing customer calls, discussion on architecture, product, meetings, etc. These are tasks which only you could do it.
  4. Your non-core tasks are those which someone else could do it for a fraction of your time-value.

Enjoy and be productive.

The bird is a Rainbow bee-eater, a long distance migratory bird found in Australia.

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  • Sounds like you’d like the ‘Pomodoro technique’. (though the default there is 25m sprints and 5m break for non-core stuff/email; it all depends on the kind of *flow* you want to achieve and the kind of work you do.)

    • 25 Minutes is too short for technology workers 🙂

  • You have invented your own version of pomodoro 🙂 

    I think one of the main reasons pomodoro works is because it forces you to prioritize the tasks for the day & work on it.

    • Pomodoro technique sounds interesting. Pasting it from the site.

      The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique® can be split in five simple steps:Choose a task to be accomplished
      Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
      Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
      Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
      Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

  • Nice strategy.. i typically keep these chores post lunch.. mornings and evenings is when I get my adrenaline rush and I save it for dev activities

    • True. What if you start your day early at 8:00a? Would be “worn out” in 2-3 hrs before lunch hits…

  • sushrutbidwai

    This is all good Indus. But you know what – just hire a office assistance. Like right now. 4/4.5K per month of office assistant salary is nothing compared to dealing with so many things. Its not the actual time, its the background  threads these mundane tasks occupy in brain which kills productivity. 

    • Thats the whole idea, kill the back ground threads by taking these short “assignments”.