Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 10, 2012

– The therapeutic effects of collating and punching paper.

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The original purpose of our company was to develop and market a methodology to walk people step-by-step through the design and development of information systems, from soup-to-nuts. We implemented this as a series of manuals and forms for people to reference during the process. Actually, there were three manuals in the set which were housed in 22-ring binders: a manual to explain the methodology, another to show examples, and a third with training materials and an installation guide. This was done at a time before there were quick copy shops. Based on our artwork, a printer would produce copies of the manuals and forms on an offset press which was returned to us for collating, punching, and insertion into the binders. This was certainly not a glamorous job, but it had to be done regardless. To implement it, we setup long tables and organized the pages around them. We then began the arduous task of collating and inserting the paper by encircling those tables for hours. On a good day, we could assemble forty manuals which was considered a respectable pace. Inevitably, we began to experience the effects of monotony and boredom. You couldn’t go on autopilot completely during this assembly as you didn’t want to make a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t complicated either. We did this for several years until we were able to automate our manuals for access via the computer. I cannot honestly say I miss those days, but I appreciate the necessity of the work.

We’ve probably all performed some form of monotonous activity, be it collating and punching paper, stapling, folding, photocopying, applying adhesive labels, or some other task that doesn’t require a lot of brain power, but still has to be done nevertheless. Every now and then, I find such work to be a welcome departure from the trials and tribulations of the day, where you can “zone-out” for a while and yet do something productive in the process. Some might call this “idiot work” but that does a disservice to the necessity of the task and those performing it. Actually, it is rather remarkable how people can become somewhat robotic in performing repetitive tasks over and over again without frequently making mistakes. Occasional breaks help clear the head and allows the worker to re-focus.

Some “professionals” consider it beneath their dignity to perform such work. Actually, it can be rather therapeutic. Not only is it a good distraction to clear the mind, it should also be a reminder of the dignity of work in general. It may not be rocket science, but it is still necessary. For those who suffer from an inflated ego, there is nothing better than a little “idiot work” to bring them back down to earth.

Monotonous work may not be glamorous and seem somewhat boring, but we must be mindful of the fact that just about every business or nonprofit has some form of repetitive task to be performed. I, for one, am cognizant of the need for it and certainly do not demean anyone having to perform such work. My company would certainly not be here today without it. Whenever someone asks for some help in this regard I am glad to assist if time permits. As I said, I see it as a great stress reliever and do some of my best thinking under such conditions. It’s just what the doctor ordered.

By the way, for those asking, “Why did you use 22-ring binders?” Actually, this was done by design. Most binders only have two or three rings, which means it would be easy to insert additional pages into them. We didn’t want that. In fact, we wanted to make it as difficult as possible to insert more pages, hence the 22-ring binders. You see, there is a method to our madness.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    A C.M. of Tarpon Springs, Florida wrote…

    Thank you for sharing this. Some “professionals” forget the importance of the mundane work. In the pest control industry filing is critical. I used to love to help with the filing. It was my break. Now that we are paperless I’ve lost that therapy.

    The Mundane Work Award goes to a lady from DowAgrosciences who helped me during a software conversion. We had to match up hundreds of Sentricon accounts in a short period of time. She approached each one with fresh eyes as though it was a separate task. We did this for hours. I’ve never seen anything like it. It reflects the highest level of caring, not only for her customer (me) but for my customers and for the importance of mundane work.


  2. Tim Bryce said

    An L.M. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    Looking back over my somewhat checkered and speckled adult working years, I can classify most, if not all, of what I did as “idiot work.” Thank you for putting all that in prospective.


  3. Tim Bryce said

    An H.S. of Las Vegas, Nevada said…

    Again, I agree with you, Tim. I have had jobs where I made copies, collated paper (believe it or not, people, copy machines haven’t always auto-collated), stapled papers (ditto), arranged colored markers into their rainbow patterns in boxes, etc. It is therapeutic, it puts your mind into a meditative state. As much as I like mental challenges in my job, I have never minded breaks from the stress doing tasks like that.

    Also, I don’t think any job is demeaning. They are all equally necessary.


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A C.V. of Lansing, Michigan wrote…

    The value of working, even if it is a boring repetitious job as you point out – and doing your very best – is a way to build character. Excellent article Tim! Haven’t been getting your notices for awhile but am now and glad that I am!


  5. Tim Bryce said

    A B.T. of Denver, Colorado wrote…

    Thanks for the posting. I made several such prideful trips around such tables in 1980.


  6. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    This brought back memories of binding cookbooks and compiling pages for all sorts of projects. We usually had several women who walked around a table, picking up papers off each pile. Not only did we get the job done, we got exercise and a chance to chat.

    Some repetitive tasks can be very soothing. Sorting and filing often allow the mind to wander while the work gets done. I have met people who think they’re too highly qualified for menial work. Personally, I’d rather be busy than bored.


  7. Tim Bryce said

    An O.B. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    Those who truly love their work are seldom bored. To these folks, the very quality of their work become the focus of their attention. One of the job efficiency folks seldom look at are jobs that are done by natives in third world nations, Banana boat packer for one example, the job is for sure monotonous, but instead they make a kind of ceremony of it, They sing as team while they work with each man or woman having a part in the song, This not only breaks up the monotony but increase quality, Today most factory or production lines would never dream of such tactics, we are too refined for that.

    You are very correct in saying that every job has a certain part that is repetitive and seemingly boring, but then we have made boring a household word, A lot of folks looked down on me because I spanked my children at a very young age for using the word boring in my presence or in fact using it at all, I wanted more than anything else for them to learn to think more than I valued a college degree. For a man can have a lot of education on paper but if he/sh3 does not possess the ability to think, the paper is worthless. I do very much value a good education but when that education teaches words like monotony and boring, I see it as worthless as it gives the thinker an excuse for not thinking,

    We have today, as you indicated in your post, those who think mundane jobs are beneath their dignity, and refuse to take any part in such menial task. My father taught me that when you work for some one, any legal job was honorable work, even cleaning the toilet or sweeping the floor. We have place the emphasis more on leadership than on the actual work being preformed, Bottom line is somebody has to do the dirty and monotonous tasks, but we have attached such a stigma to it that nobody wants to do that type of work, hence we have a largely dissatisfied work force,

    In Japan we had monotonous project for a lot of people, Twas my privilege to be able to assign the work to all, so I did and all shared in the mundane as well as the important work, Even as the Supervisor, I jumped in and did the work on my turn, We made fun of it instead of bitching about it.

    Thanks for bringing this to the attention of so many Tim, Maybe your words will fall on some ears that are listening,
    Cheers and May God Bless


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