SOME MONOTONOUS WORK: JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
Posted by Tim Bryce on May 10, 2012
– The therapeutic effects of collating and punching paper.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim’s columns, see:
Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.
Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
NEXT UP: A CORPORATE POLICY FOR PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES – Is it necessary to write a formal policy for use of electronic devices in the workplace?