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The Word is "Waste"

draft_lens4964962module37457012photo_124397372830024559_bubbler To add insult to injury (dead moms, for chrissakes!), someone has spammed [1] the heck out of my blog, requiring hours of wasted effort on my part to delete thousands of comments. I haven't been this angry in a long, long time, so I thought I'd counteract with a "Word is" [2] post on waste. (Side note: I'm playing with comment settings to help stop the spam. Right now I've switched from math to image captcha, and required comment previews. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.) Civilization will prevail over [Internet] anarchy!

  • Energy: How about a national mandate to disable the compressors in office water fountains? I'm curious how the idea of chilled water became the norm. I think room temperature is fine! I wonder how much energy we'd save... (Any of my engineer readers want to do a rough estimate?) Bonus: The local environment would be quieter! (Related: Check out the fascinating History of Drinking Fountains.)

  • Knowing When it's Waste: When trying something new [3], it's sometimes hard to know when you're wasting effort. After all, if you knew where to focus it wouldn't be an experiment (see You Know You're Experimenting When...). In addition to personal development, this includes being handed a new assignment, a entire second role (due to the economy), or, worse, losing your job. To help prevent waste, know why you're doing an activity, set a timeline for evaluation, set it up to invest as little effort as possible, and choose wisely. (Side note: In building my consulting practice I've tried a ton of things to get business. One of those is networking, naturally, and gifts. A good percentage of these have not panned out, mostly due to not making ideal choices of who I talked to.)

  • Email folders: Advice from Death by Information Overload [4]: "Don't waste time sorting messages into folders; inbox search engines make that unnecessary. (One possible exception: Create an 'urgent action' folder - but don't forget to check it.)"

  • Sins: As a card-carrying atheist (actually, not yet), I list waste as one of The Sins. Others? Hmm. How about hurting others, harming the environment, not taking responsibility, and (generally speaking) irrational behavior? (For time management sins, check out Rodger's 10 Deadly Sins of Time Management... and How to Avoid Them (part 1).)

  • Productivity: Not having a system, clearly, wastes mental effort. Worse yet, it's unnecessary. For the simplest starting point, check out The World's Simplest Productivity Method, With Bonus Mini-Processing Examples.

  • Leaving well enough alone. Most of the time I've ignored this advice I've regretted it. Has this sleeping dog ever bitten you?

  • Networking: I've found that lectures and events with no explicit mingling time are a waste. I'm not talking about those explicit events, but places of genuine interest which are attended by people you genuinely want to help. Of course gaining the information talked about is important, but from a consulting perspective it better be darn important to warrant the effort, if significant.

  • Effort vs. Results: As I find the 2x2 format irresistible, how about this classic? The 1,0 cell (high effort, low results) is a fine definition of waste, no?

  • Meetings: What are your favorite waste-elimination opportunities around meetings? How about inviting only the right people, having an agenda, and sending necessary information beforehand? Find more good tips at To Meet Or Not To Meet.

  • Personal Conservation: "If a man skimps himself through all the best years of his life in order to provide for his old age, has he conserved his resources, or has he wasted them?" (From Today and Tomorrow, Henry Ford's 1926 Classic.)

  • Opportunities: "Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. [They are] opportunities to do big things." -- Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff. (From Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy.) (Note: In my official capacity of "jackass," semi-defined in How To Approach Solving Procrastination, I strongly believe important opportunities offered by the financial crisis sadly have been wasted. More at A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste and Simon Johnson's comments at Bill Moyers Journal. Respectful comments welcome.)


Reader Comments (3)

That stinks. IT had the brainy idea to move our websites but not our files. I've been copying files for 2 days. My eyes are melting in their sockets. Heartless b@stards.

I hear your pain, Cliff. I thought it'd drop off, but it hasn't, in spite of changing blogging comment settings, so I'll delegate to a pro. Is yours something you could outsource? I suspect not, given privacy.

Side note: I've been reporting the spam to [ Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx ] in hopes that the b@stards get some flak. For fun I tried automating the process (deletion and reporting) using the Firefox macro tool [ iMacros | http://www.iopus.com/imacros/firefox/?ref=fxmoz ]. Works great in spite of some installation hiccups and imperfect (but still usable) UI. Still a ton of work.

P.S. Glad you liked the TTL shirt (http://edison.thinktrylearn.com/experiments/show/62) :-)

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Thank you for your blog, Matt, it is a great inspiration for me. I was very sorry to hear about your losses.

If you use Wordpress, I suggest the wp-spamfree plugin (http://www.hybrid6.com/webgeek/plugins/wp-spamfree). At least it works like a charm for me (my traffic is still small, though). Sorry if you do know the plugin and I am saying something really obvious.
Regarding waste, you made me notice something funny: it's been a year now since I started using GTD; it has been a revolution in my life, and yet, there are moments when I NEED to do something unproductive, something that is not in any list. I wonder if maybe my right brain needs more time to get used to so much efficiency!

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNchei

[Hi, Nchei. Thanks for writing. In my zeal to delete comment spam, I think I accidentally deleted my reply to you. Here goes again.]

Thank you for your condolences, and compliment. It's a priviledge to you here. Re: Wordpress, I considered it carefully then took advice to use Drupal. It's not been the best choice, but I'm not yet ready to change.

Good point about necessary waste. I'm in complete agreement that we need downtime, and that without it we risk (actually, are likely to) cut our efficiency in the long run. This got me thinking - does downtime = waste? My Mac dictionary says it's "an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose". So to make it productive (i.e., not wasteful) breaks should be conscious, limited in time/energy/resources (money?), and with the goal of healthy mental restoration. So pay attention to what you're brain is telling you. If you're pushing hard on a task and it's simply not cooperating, take a break. If you're feeling tired, ditto. Etc.

Thanks for your comment, Nchei.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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