Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Work Redefined

I was listening to an Audible program this morning about "Creating you and Company" by The Stanford Channel on my way to work. As I walked the author went on about how Jobs are going to become a thing of the past, and that we're all going to be esentially freelances. Unfortunately, I didn't make it through the full hour, but it got me to thinking about "work" and how I don't think the traditional definition is applicable any longer.

That definition being "work" as "something you do that you get paid for." I think we need to re-define work as "any activity you do which creates value." This can be value for yourself or for someone else. Furthermore, for the same of my argument, let's define Efficiency as unit of work per unit of time. If you do more work in a unit of time, or you take less time to do the same work then you are working efficiently.

Why the change from "that you are paid" to "which creates value?" Because it makes your time at your job comparable to your time at home. If you wash your clothes, you have done work. If you cook dinner, you have done work. And by this definition, if you are watching you are doing work.

I don't think that this definition gives you license to watch more TV in the name of working. Far from it, thinking about your time at your job and at home in comparable units will force you to consider just how much value you are creating for yourself by sitting down and watching TV. Answer for most people, not much. People tend to be least satisfied and engaged when they are watching television. Don't believe me? Read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihal (chick sent me high). But I digress.

All time has an opportunity cost, and all work has a level of efficiency (how much value you create per unit of time). When you are evaluating tasks you do in your life, you should evaluate both the opportunity cost and the efficiency of the work you are doing at that point. Instead of watching TV what could you be doing with your time? How efficiently is TV creating value for you?

This isn't to say that you shouldn't have leisure time, far from it. This is to say that you should spend your leisure time efficiently creating value for yourself.

This also is to say that you should look for ways to streamline the non-paid non-leisure tasks that you need to perform. Depending on the person these include cooking, cleaning, personal finances, fixing things, doing your taxes, etc. If you have read The Millionaire Mind (audio), you already know that the major secrets are: live below your means, and outsource those things someone else could do more efficiently than you. In the case of the MillionaireMind, they reffer specifically to accounting and legal work. But you should also think about things like cooking and cleaning.

If bring home $50,000 a year working 60 hours a week (or $34K for 40 hours) with two weeks vacation, then you are making $17 for each hour you work. If you have a side business this rate could be far higher. But now, you know the opportunity cost of your time, $17/hour (assuming that you can increase your salary by working overtime, or taking on additional projects). If you can hire someone to clean at $20 an hour, who will do the job more efficiently than you, then you are likely to be money ahead. If you are watching TV, it is costing you $17/hour to get dumber.

1 comment:

Dus10 D said...

I like this concept. While it is somewhat off-topic, I like to use my DVR to record the shows that I like, so I do not really have to dedicate a specific block of time to them. Further, I can easily skip commercials, and entire segments. I usually watch a couple news shows... so I can easily watch two hours worth of TV within 30-45 minutes in the morning, before I go to work, as I am eating breakfast.

It cuts down on the time I waste watching TV, freeing up time to do other things.

Other ideas are appliances, like dishwashers, where they help you perform a task that might take you twice as much of your time, or more.

I consider that outsourcing your tasks to technology. That goes back to economics, and where real economic advances can only come from technology, or more correctly, finding more efficient ways to performs tasks, usually by means of new technologies.