Maximise your downtime

One of my favourite blogs is twopointouch written by Ian Delaney. He recently blogged on the topic of getting more from your time or “maximising your downtime”. The point, he says, is that staying in contact makes you work less be less efficient, less creative and that daydreaming, being present, talking, networking are more valuable than keeping in touch with the office. Everyone grasps for the next stage of technology however does it actually make things better. Are agencies (my area of expertise) more creative, more profitable, more fun, more relaxed, more enjoyable they definitely have more technology than ten years ago.  So maybe we should meet up, turn off the mobiles and have a good chat.

Read the full article below: –

As you may know, I launched the newsstand magazine What Laptop & Handheld PC (as it was originally called) back in the day – 1999, to be exact. And I have grave misgivings about the whole affair.

One of the most popular marketing messages that advertisers were pushing then about mobile technology, and they still are now, was ‘maximising your downtime’. This meant – in their examples – your senior exec is travelling somewhere to meet a prospective client. If they were equipped with a laptop or a PDA, they could still be doing other stuff. Because, of course, employees are machines that can churn out 40 hours of work a week. If they are not at their desk, hard at it, then they can do it somewhere else with a laptop.

Total bullshit from the start, then. If you have ever been in these situations, you’ll know that meetings require a lot of preparation. Undoubtedly, more preparation than you have allowed, unless you’ve done the same thing a million times. Your train ride is spent bricking it and preparing, one way or another.

In 2001, or thereabouts, mobile communications got thrown into this. “Out of Touch –  I don’t think so! with Communicotron 2001. This was about the point that Blackberries started to appear on commuter trains. Nokia had their 9000 series and Palm and Microsoft were waking up to the idea of smartphones.

More bullshit. A Blackberry is poison. I have had two on extended (6-month) press arrangements. They have made me more responsive to emails, sure. But also more worried, less creative and less productive. What’s your priority?

In 2003, the first Centrino processors meant laptops could run on battery power for – meh – in my experience 3-4 hours, but in the marketing parlance ‘all-day’. They’ve got a little better since then, and 6 hours isn’t quite such a stretch to the imagination.

Cool – I can actually ignore the conference and do emails instead. Thanks for the £700 or thereabouts spent on my presence, but I learned nothing, because I wasn’t paying attention or thinking about the topic under discussion.

In 2006, the first ‘all you can eat’ data packages started to appear, meaning that, yes, if you had coverage, you could do normal things on the Internet while you were out and about, and not worry too much about the charges.

I don’t want to even start on why this is not going to make you do more work. It isn’t, OK? There is no way on earth that people are going to do more work. Stop it.

In 2008, none of that extra productivity and connectivity seems to matter a stuff. What were all these executives up to with their high-powered communications gadgets? Certainly not bringing home the bacon or making sensible decisions. If the credit crisis does anything, I hope it explodes this myth.

Mobile technology is great – it lets you put in your four hours a day of real work – proper, excited, creative, wonderful stuff, from anywhere. But don’t expect extra anything.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am an enormous fan of downtime: skiving-off, fucking-about, pissed-up afternoons and all the rest of it. Extra productivity is an evil myth designed to make us buy more stuff because we’re continually so guilty about having achieved a normal amount of work. Having been given (or – the real kicker, bought ourselves) these toys to improve productivity, it gets even worse.

But get real. There is no extra productivity. People (even me) likework – we like having a purpose and getting down to the real nitty gritty. But I reckon there’s about 20-40 hours a week* of that in all of us, depending on how creative, clever and original you are supposed to be. You are naturally programmed to create a certain amount of real work. After that, you do busy work, “research”, find work for other people, do pointless admin shit and piss about.

AND, this is why downtime is so important: stay in the pub, wander off to the other department, go to networking events in work time: that’s when you make new relationships, connect different things together, come up with the new approach.

Fucking hell. Downtime is gold.

No links or proof in this post. Sorry. But true. Here’s to the value of downtime – see you in the pub.

(* Many clever, creative people put in 80+ hours a week according to the time clocks. But creative, clever, real hours…?)

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