Skip to content
▪ 2 min

Bullshit Tasks

We are doing more pointless work than ever.

I think we have a habit of 'filling' time with pointless tasks. I think a lot of people spend their days performing tasks that do not really need to be performed. Like you have to invent pointless work to fill your time.

And by filling up that time we hide behind the easy work so that we don't do the important things we really have to do. To then say we where busy with 'other things' to not have to complete our 'important work'.

I'm sorry, I didn't have time for that...

How come? Why couldn't I just do one task each day, that has a very big impact then to fill my day with pointless tasks. To make the work and the impact the measure, not time.

I'm a teacher. And I would say my job is pretty socially valuable. David Graeber in his book Bullshit Jobs quotes a research about how socially valuable different job sectors are which mentions education;

The most socially valuable workers whose contributions could be calculated are medical researchers, who add +$9 of overall value to society for every $1 they are paid.

For teachers this is +$1 for every $1 they are paid. We are on the second spot, just below the researchers. In contrast to e.g. the financial sector:

The least valuable were those who worked in the financial sector, who, on average, subtract a net -$1,80 in value from society for every $1 of compensation.

Even being in education I started to question my own daily tasks. Especially at the end of last year many of my tasks consisted of e-mailing students, chatting with them on MS Teams and constantly answering small questions. And then after my whole morning being 'gone' to responding to 'seemingly urgent' reguest I had two meetings scheduled, I attented but felt empty afterwards. Those meetings have easily could have been a text document to fill me in on the latest details.

The overall number of teachers per student remained largely constant. At the same time, the number of administrators and, above all, administrative staff ballooned to an unprecedented degree in the last few years.

After that long day I stressed because I only had '30 minutes left' in my workday to prepare my lesson for the following morning. The thing I should have done all along, taking more time to prepare my lesson for my students.

Instead of building digital products for clients I choose to spend my time enabling others to do things. I'm forever grateful to have being given that opportunity in life but I feel like more and more of my time is spend on 'busy work' instead of actually the thing that's most important: thinking about how to give better eduction to students.

Thanks,
Danny de Vries