Almost everything you do in your personal life is useful, even if it's just relaxing or spending time with your family. But if you have a white collar job, almost everything you do for your so-called work will end up being a waste of time in the long run. Obviously if you are a carpenter, most of your nails serve a good purpose. But white collar jobs are mostly about wasting time, with the hope that sometimes, rarely, something good will happen.

If you have a white collar job, leave a comment telling me two things:
  • (1) What is the next WORK item you expect to do.
  • (2) Tell me why it's probably going to be a waste of time.

Resist the urge to say "Eat a donut" or "read Dilbert comics." Tell me the actual work item and why it probably makes no difference in the long run.

This will either be sad or funny. I'm not sure.

[My blogging software doesn't allow me to do numbered lists that don't look stupid.]

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Mar 27, 2009
My major task today is to determine why a test passed. I am, literally, debugging a pass. I don't think that I need to explain to any rational human being why this is a waste of time.
Mar 27, 2009
Fantastic blog!!
Im currently updating vast amounts of information in our database. The database will be replaced in the next year or so, and most of the work im doing wont be used in the comming 12 months.

And then I got paid!

Gotta love fridays.

God Save the Queen.
Mar 27, 2009
I prepare a weekly revenue forecast for a division of a large, well-known company. I use historical data to produce mathematical trends. I adjust for seasonality. Then I contact the division's sales managers to include any expected large sales that would not be captured by historical data. After 12 hours of work, I submit my detailed forecast to my boss, who tells me to add $10 million to my forecast. He likes "optimistic" forecasts. So I must go back and change all the lines of the forecast to include the extra $10 million. Then I send the forecast to corporate headquarters.

Next week, I will have to write up explanations to corporate HQ as to why my sales forecast was off by $10 million.

Don't tell me I should just add the $10 million to my original forecast. I tried that once, and my boss added $10 million on top of that.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
My next task is to produce the accounting forecasts for the next year for two businesses that employ around 60 people. Failure to produce these would result in the business being closed down by the bank. So, I like to think my next three days work is quire useful, if only in the short term!
Mar 27, 2009
I'm on a 2 hour call to review documents that represent changes to a web site. These changes are done all of the time and almost never change. We have to follow the review process because it's in the client's contract, but the process adds no value. A better system would be to only review one-off types of changes that are not standard.
Mar 27, 2009
I will scrub our database.
It is a waste of time, because our "pointy haired" boss has forgotten to include as much as half our database in his calculations. When (not if) he discovers this fact, there will be the proverbial "stuff" hitting a fan.
I have tried to notify him of this fact so we can fix it at one time, but he is not listening, (or doesn't want to hear.)
So...in the coming months, I will again scrub our database to fix this problem.
Some of you may be asking why I don't just go ahead and fix it for him. I need input from him. All customers have to be classified and they have to be classified correctly by his standards. So if he doesn't classify them, the effort is wasted anyway.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
I'll be meeting with a financial auditor today for a couple of hours who will ask superficial questions about my operations. I'll give her superficial answers that sound good. This will be written up eventually (say 6 months from now) along with a "helpful" suggestion or two about ways that I can improve my operations. None of these suggestions will make sense in the real world and/or will be impossible to implement due to staff/budget restrictions. The cycle will be repeated annually, just as it has been for the last 8 years (so far).
Mar 27, 2009
As hardware / computer tech for a small school district, I am currently cleaning viruses out of our librarian's computer. Why I bother I do not know, this is the 3rd virus he has gotten in under 2 months that has required a full clean. Somehow he always seems to get the brand new ones that our AV system has not got protections for yet.

Thankfully, this time he did not infect the entire district with it.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
I've been a programmer/analyst/software engineer for over 20 years. A few months ago, I was laid off and my work was offshored to India, so technically I don't have any work items to do. But looking for a new job is hard work, and the next thing I will be doing is emailing my resume in hopes that it will reach someone at a company that will still hire Americans.

I do this everyday now, and so far it's been totally useless, because there are probably 5,000 other resumes reaching the same inbox as mine. What's really sad is that I do this hoping that I can find myself in a position like the rest of the posters here, complaining about the stupidity of the job. It's true what they say, 'You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone'.
Mar 27, 2009
I'm a pHD student, depending on whether people are available or not I will either:

A) Have my six month progress report with my supervisor and an idenpendant tutor- this will be pointless because none of us will want to be there (we just have to have the meeting because it's the system and we need to prove we had a meeting), the tutor and my supervisor will go off on a tangent that has little to do with my project, and they will have to "set goals" with me that will consist of either things that everyone is expected to do at some point anyway (Chair a talk, do a presentation etc) or me going on "transferable skills" courses that teach things best learnt by experience (How to chair a talk, do a presentation, use certain software etc)


B) I will have a meeting between my supervisor and a rep from the company that is sponsering my pHD to discuss my latest results and what practical things to do next- this will be pointless because I won't really understand what they're talking about, so my supervisor will have to explain most of it again, and my work probably won' be of much use, to a company that probably won't be able to make new drug compounds that probably won't work anyway.

In the meantime I will do some background reading- which is pointless because I don't remember it anyway

2-3 years of this and I (hopefully) get to call myself a Doctor (no not one of the useful medical ones)
Mar 27, 2009
today i will be working on a web feature about the fancy saftey features an expensive new Mercedes. this is pointless because the only people rich enough to afford one are old PHBs who probably dont know how to use a computer anyway, and likely dont even care about the new saftey doo-dad thingey.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
(1) Suretyship contract;
(2) The guy, who will sign it, has a separation of assets agreement with his wife.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
On my agenda today: bug-testing on a new custom financial application, and counting and processing thousands of dollars of deposits. However, both of these things are actually useful, as the new system will increase efficiency and reporting, and revenue is a good thing. :)

The 2-hour, division-wide, "organization in crisis" meeting next week that I imagine will tell us nothing we don't already know -- now, THAT will be a giant, pointless waste of time...
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
This seems like a good opportunity to comment on a huge time suck that most people here deal with: filing income taxes.

The amount of time that a person has to spent on this insanity varies from person to person, but if you're anything like me and have income from sources than a traditional salary, tax season is a time of year, that you say goodbye to several days of free time.

Each year, as my anger and frustration mounts with our absurdly arcane and counter-intuitive U.S. tax code, I wonder just how much time (i.e. GDP) is consumed by this process and hence could potentially be recovered if there's ever (real) income tax code reform.

For example, in my case, I'm a cofounder of an S corp (I'm an software engineer), and we have to file in three states and pay an accountant real money to navigate the tax waters each year. As a company that grosses around $800k per year, paying about 6 salaries, goes it makes sense that we have to spend about $50k on accountants and consulting (specifically for tax consultation), not to mention that each of the founders (4) have to spend 2-3 full days working on our taxes? It doesn't seem to make sense to have our tax code to be so painful for non-financial types that are busy trying to build stuff rather than churn paper.

It would be very very interesting for this blog (or anyone else) to play with some numbers on how much GDP is thrown away each year as a result of antiquated US tax code, seemingly "engineered" only to keep the boys club of tax accounting in business and offer breaks to big money.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
I'm a games programmer, and I'm about to optimise a bit of code, spending a few weeks making it as fast possible so that our game can display lots of things on screen and still spend most of the time in the gameplay code that actually makes games fun. Touble is, most other programmers have no concept of speed and will write code to use up whatevers left of the CPUs time, so the only way to make them write fast code, is to make mine as slow as possible, at which point I'll get sacked for writing bad code and endangering the project....
Mar 27, 2009
Well I work for Sun Microsystems, who as you may know are in talks with IBM to be bought over. At the moment I work on financial systems and their development. At this moment we are working on upgrading our ERP system to Oracle 11i. Now, assuming that IBM do buy us, everything I've ever worked on pretty much becomes useless as we will be integrated into IBM's ERP system, which I believe is SAP.

I know that even when the takeover is announced there will still be those at Sun who will want to continue with any development as it gives them a sense of purpose to their otherwise worthless life. Not me, I'm looking forward to a relaxing summer and lots of golf. Hopefully then I'll be made redundant. Good times ahead I say!!
Mar 27, 2009
1 - merge EPC models my coworker and I produced in the last 3 days of insanely complex process analysis for a German public health insurance co. to prepare a further step of introducing paperless office.

2 - it won't make people healthier
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
Software engineer for CNC machine factory.

I did some useful work in the past, but at the time I am programming a machine that we already know will probably sell poorly. We know that because we already sell it with a different controller, and it doesn't sell very well.
I get satisfaction from my work wenn things work properly.
Mar 26, 2009
I work for a stock-broking house. Every morning I e-mail a list of stock tips to our clients to help them trade in stocks.
80% of the people who receive the reports do not read them.
The balance 20% of the people who do read them, do not make any money trading stocks and soon join the other 80%.

Sometime in the afternoon, I will be going on TV to appear as an "expert" on the stock market, with effectively the same result.
Anybody with any experience in the stock market has learnt to ignore whatever the experts say completely.
The novices are massively impressed for some short time but then they also catch on fast.

I have been doing this for the last six years. My only consolation is that I do have to actively go and con people into investing in any financial products or portfolio management schemes of our company. We have "financial advisors" for that.
Mar 26, 2009
Although I no longer wear a collar, a typical day was taking $10,000 of revenue and splitting it in half and in the process reporting $5000 of NEW revenue. I did it for years.
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