Lost Time

Geez, has it been that long since I’ve posted? I am going to have trouble renewing my blog license.

You know how they always have stories about lost American productivity due to some activity at work? Like, “$300 million in productivity is lost every year in corporate America due to fantasy football.” (Just to make up a figure.) I hate those bullshit statistics. They never seem to take into account that every office has a certain amount of goofing off. And this type of goofing off is acceptable and human. How much productivity is lost every year due to people chatting about American Idol or Lost or 24? Or gossiping about so-and-so in sales? Or daydreaming? (Answer to all these: a lot.) The “lost productivity” statistics seem to assume that if not for activity x, the person would be working. It is more likely that if not for activity x, the person would be engaging in activity y — still not working.

You want to talk about wasted time? I’ll give you an example of wasted time. You know when you watch a DVD and you start it up and the screen that says, “The comments in the commentaries on this DVD are not necessarily the opinion of ACME Entertainment Company.” And then the message is repeated in French. (Stupid French, but that’s another story.) Did someone sue some movie studio based on a comment made in the commentaries? Is that why we are subjected to this? Thanks asshat. Or were these preemptive moves by some studio lawyer? Thanks asshat. More candidates for banishment to the Island of Asshats.

Then there’s also the Interpol warning in English and French about how copying is illegal. I’m sure that has stopped many movie pirates in their tracks! The clincher is that you usually you CANNOT fast forward through all these idiotic warnings.

Let’s say the average person watches 50 movies and TV episodes per year on DVD. (I watch more but let’s go with the average.) Let’s say the warnings in English and French (two each) last ten seconds. So I spend 500 seconds of my life every year watching these warnings. That’s eight minutes. There are about 300 million people in the U.S. and we all watch DVDs, or almost all of us. Let’s say only 200 million people watch at least 50 movies and TV episodes per year on DVD. If my calculations are correct, that means we as a nation spend at least 27 million hours per year watching those warnings.

Forget about lost productivity, how about lost personal time? Think of all we could accomplish with those lost 27 million hours. Ten seconds at a time, we can change the world.

  1. Tamale Malone’s avatar

    Myself, I wonder how much personal time is wasted by working. Most people are supposed to get a lunch break and yet many work through it. Others end up having to work at home in the mornings or evenings. Imagine how much time we could spend exploring the arts or outdoor activities if we weren’t always stressed about our jobs or working at them. Now, it is likely I would just spend that time watching American Idol or reading the Interpol warnings on the latest bad Ben Stiller movie, but still…

  2. wisco’s avatar

    I’m with you, T_Mal. People say, “Time is money.” I say time is worth more than money.

  3. Michael’s avatar

    The comparative productivity game is another silly metric. But when thinking about work, do you remeber a motion picture called “9 to 5″? Starred Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dabney Coleman. Do you know anyone who works 9-5 anymore (except you AFSCME drones out there)?

    I’d wager that the meaningful growth in average per capita US productivity was achieved by two items in chief: (a) the elimination of secretaries and administrative assistants; and (b) the expansion of the expected work day.

    Since I can book my own travel, file my own correspondence, make my own copies, fill out my own expense reports and harass myself (despite the fact that I’m effectively being compensated at around $95/hr. to perform these tasks), most office environments have fewer non-college degreed women. And higher per capita productivity.

    I answer e-mails and phone calls from 7-8pm and often respond via Blackberry 7 days a week.

    No wonder people shop or read ESPN at work. They perform work when they should be reading, shopping…

  4. wisco’s avatar

    Good point, Michael. When people are working almost every waking hour they naturally need to use some of that time to relax or run errands or whatever.

  5. yvonne’s avatar

    i am guilty! i watch the movies or etc to take my mind away and escape for just a moment. Yes, it may not be the idea choice for the intellectual elite.. but for many of us – it is “not” idea but just a quick fix.

    However, i wonder how much personal time is wasted by people who ponder instead of “do”. After spending alot of my time as a “spiritual counselor”(long story), so many people are concern with others people issues and not with being the other “person’s solutions”. We should not worry about the others and their lack of productivity. instead, let’s be productive in our time and live by example. Hummmm!
    Note: I usually cook around the Interpol warning in English and French. Can’t waste the time. Wasted time = Hungry children.

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