Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Oh, I have too much work yaar!"

It's unbelievable that exactly a year ago, I was battling 3 courses for grade, 1 on unregistered audit and an RA. And one of the graded courses had 2 sections, both of which I attended because the lectures had a different emphasis in each. So you see why I said battling. Though I still found time to ping some friends, watch Jon Stewart almost regularly and Skype for an hour in the morning and night on an average, life was mostly a long unending race of deadlines and GNU debug.. 

Admittedly, I didn't do a thesis. Maybe I should have. 

In contrast, life today is a breeze. A cakewalk. "Plum" as we used to call it in third grade.

Now you might think I am boasting. I am not.*  I brought this up because now that I am back on a job, I hear people say "Oh I have too much work yaar" or "I am too busy" more often.  Oh, wait. I meant people saying this more often, unjustifiably. Especially in response to innocuous greetings like "Hey! What's up?" (When some grad students said this, it was an understatement. When people at my office say this, I know it's something bigger than hyperbole.) Let me explain.

Most industry jobs are not particularly killing. You use your brain alright, but (unless you are in a research division or a startup) they don't need you to key in more than 40 hours per week. (Even 40 is a lot, but at least that's what you are paid for.) Nor are they rocket science. 
In fact, they are mostly easy and just challenging enough to keep you interested- BY DESIGN. Think about it. If your job were super-complicated and you decided to quit, your company will have to shut down. That almost never happens. And it doesn't happen because companies are DESIGNED to be successful even if a few (not all) of their best employees leave. So, while this might hurt or be bitter- the job you (and I) are doing is very much normal, unsophisticated and anyone with an average intelligence can be trained to do it.

This being the case, why do people often say they have too much work? Mostly because everyone else does it. It seems like if you said you didn't have much work, people would think you are slacking off. It is the same reason people pretend to be looking at an xterm every time you walk into their office. It's mostly just a way to up themselves. (Of course, someone might say they are too busy just to avoid you, but that's for another day.) 

So, when I hear someone say "they have too much to do" every single workday, if I were to believe them, I'd infer one of the following:
  1. They are lousy at their job and need too much time to do it.
  2. They are very unproductive and need too much time to finish their work because they are wasting their time on useless tasks and facebook, but somehow counting it as "work".
  3. They are very inefficient and solve problems in roundabout manners, thus taking more time.
  4. They are very poor at organizing their work and do not know how to find time for other things.
  5. They are losers who do not have an active enough brain to have a work-life balance.

Ok. Like everything else, there are exceptions. There are "crunch-time"s (and "dungeons" in Intel parlance) when you really are "busy". And there are the few of you who actually have enough career growth to show for your work. But as I said, they are 'exceptions'. "Wait", you say, "What if I love my job so much I want to do nothing else?". Well, you almost had me stumped there, but no. If you love your job AND work too hard AND didn't grow it's time you worked on your soft skills. Did I mention organization?
So, with no offence to anyone who ever said this to me- if you cannot find time to take a break or eat lunch or talk to your friends in the weekend because "you have too much work", a) remember what you said makes me think much lesser of you b) you are probably wasting your time and/or are in the wrong job.

Now those of you who I forgot to ping/respond to, forget I ever wrote this post! :P And I was being busy. I said busy.

Edit 1: It's sometimes haunting when you find someone else wrote almost exactly the same thing you did, and worse, around the same time. Few days after I wrote this, I found an HBR post which is along the same lines as this post here.
* I know too many people who can do too much more with their time, I am almost humiliated when I list this because this is all I did with my time.
**Numbers based on hardware/semiconductor industry. Might vary a lot based on your line of work and country of work.


  1. Exactly my point. There are times when people are actually slacking off and say that they are very busy or as they say "no time at all" . I say that everyone is given 24 hours in a day, If I can make time to pick up the phone and talk to you, then so can you :P

    I randomly stumbled upon your blog and I must say its incredible.I am still reading the posts and they are very well-written!

  2. Exactly.
    And I know enough people who do well at their job, have hobbies and can keep their friends. Most people who say this are being pretentious...

    And thanks... :)


Comments are not moderated. However, spam (including irrelevant links to legal websites) will be deleted promptly.
Anonymous commenting is allowed, but it would be nice if you used SOME name just for ease of responding. Names don't link to your Google profile, so you won't be identifiable. Of course, it would be great if you used your true identity.
Also, as far as possible, please try to be respectful and criticize the idea, not the person (including other readers!)