Don’t Waste Your Time

“It’s too easy to spend time on needless tasks. . .It’s a secret of Adulthood: The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.”

These words from Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, brought me pause. Haven’t we always been taught, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well? And now, this author dares to declare such heresy?

I think Gretchen is right.

Most of us are busy, some insanely so. There is more to do than can possibly get done in a given day or week. Deadlines loom and meetings invade any unprotected space in our day. Technology makes turning off the work meter close to impossible. How do we manage this onslaught?

I make lists. The thrill of checking items off the list is intoxicating. By the way, we list makers believe others should thank us for making the trains run on time, picking the kids up from school, and promptly getting the minutes out from the last meeting. The slacker non-list makers have no idea the burden we bear for running the world.

What I do not think about enough is what goes on my list. Perhaps my day is overfull because I spend 90 minutes answering emails that could have been dispatched in 30. I straighten up my files in an effort to avoid the more important task of returning phone calls. I labor over the Power Point presentation that should have been delegated to a co-worker.

All of these things could be classified as doing tasks well.  But, the truth is, most of it was work I should not have done in the first place. I stayed busy, but I did not do what was most important.

Come to think of it, there is another old cliché. When a task is deemed insufficiently important enough to deserve hard labor, one declares to offer “a lick and a promise.”  

Some tasks, are only worth doing half-way.

Other tasks are not worth doing at all.