Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words
99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2012 Brian Remer
Updated August 2012

Read my new book
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99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

Readers Respond to the July 2012 Issue

"Your intro was "Going with the flow in the opposite direction." It's a good concept regarding conventional wisdom. The little I know about Aikido ..." (read more)

"I read your July 99-Word Story and I wonder if you got your directions wrong? If you take left into a parking lot ..." (read more)


August 2012

Wasting Work Time
Listening to the radio, I heard that Americans waste an average of 2 hours at work every day. That translates into $759 billion lost!

Me? I never waste time at work. I'm too busy making connections, building social capital. A walk to the water cooler puts me in touch with other people, their projects, their problems, and their needs. Even the physical act of moving gets my brain working in different ways, exploring new paths. I always return to my desk with several new ideas.

Perhaps we ought to redefine "work" and how we value it!


You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discssion within your team or organization.


There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis:

If I walk past your desk and see you gazing out the window or staring at the ceiling, are you wasting time? You could be figuring out a tricky spreadsheet calculation. If I see you eyeing your computer screen or looking at a sheaf of papers in your hand, are you working? You could be rewriting your grocery list. In either case, there's only one way to learn the truth about what you are doing. I'd have to ask you!

Whatever activity that engages you, the fact is, you are the one who determines its value at that particular moment in time. When I pass by your desk, I'm only taking a random sample of a very small segment of your activities. Any conclusions I make about that random sample, either negative or positive, are only my interpretation. In fairness, I really should test my interpretation for its validity.

Determining the value of what we do at work is not always simple. Managers have been given the task of ensuring efficiency, but their efforts are probably best spent determining workplace effectiveness over the long term. For example, if there are many times I notice you gazing out the window and your spreadsheets are a mess I might have rightful cause for concern. On the other hand, because individuals know their own motives, they are in the best position to determine their effectiveness from one moment to the next. Only you can determine that spending three minutes organizing your shopping for the trip home will free your mind to focus on work for the rest of the afternoon.

Susan Adams posted an article at Forbes on-line titled "Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive" (June 18, 2012). In the article, she discussed the importance of taking a break at work. Many activities that are typically categorized as wasteful, Adams said, can actually boost productivity by relieving stress, offering a diversion, pumping blood through your system, helping you feel connected to other people, and creating a state of mental flow.

Her list includes these activities:

These activities are not usually endorsed by managers because they have such an indirect connection to the usual business of a business. But many intangibles "produced" at work have just as much value as completing a project, writing a report, or shipping another 1000 cases of product. For example, chatting with colleagues or taking someone to lunch can build relationships that translate into efficient teams, motivated colleagues, and repeat business.

An unintended consequence of the Adams article is that it perpetuates a simplistic view of what makes for productive work and what constitutes time wasted. How much more refreshing it would be to have a substantive conversation about how we spend our time at work! Perhaps when we do, we'll discover ways to add value to every situation and make each moment count no matter what we are doing.


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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