Why Work Never Gets Done

19 March 2017

Why Nothing Ever Gets Done: The Fine Art Of Making Work Multiply

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Professional Procrastinator…

The following story is based on actual events.

So you made yourself a short to-do list for this Sunday, and figured you would even have time to watch a movie tonight. But just as you start getting to work…

1. You hear your cat complaining from the other room, so you go over and see that the litter box could use a refill. As you pour more litter into the box, your phone rings, and by reaching for the phone, you spill some litter on the floor. That will have to be vacuumed after the call is over.

2. During the call, you notice there’s a short in the headphone wire, meaning you’ll need to get new headphones. So after the call is done, you head over to your computer to buy some replacement headphones, but there’s no way you’ll pay Apple $29 for their low audio-quality replacement buds. That means you spend time on Amazon, where there are too many choices, including identical items at different prices.

3. While scrolling down one Amazon page after another, the scroll wheel on your computer mouse actually breaks. So you have to find a replacement for that, too. (Again, forget Apple — $49 for a basic mouse?) More time goes by on Amazon, but score, you find a mouse that looks like an Aston Martin for only $5.

4. Finally, you complete the purchase of two accessories, so you get the vacuum cleaner and notice that the light bulb in the supply closet has burned out. Replacing the bulb requires climbing on a step ladder, painfully unscrewing the cover just over your head, swapping bulbs, and replacing both the cover and the step ladder.

5. Now back to vacuuming, and since you already have it out, you decide to clean the rest of the room as well as the litter spill. And that’s when you smell dust and notice the suction is nearly non-existent from the vacuum. The bag must be full. So you open the vacuum cleaner, and kitty litter and other detritus spill on the floor.

6. You replace the bag with the last one you have, which means you’ll need to reorder that from Amazon as well. The full bag must be taken immediately to the dumpster so it doesn’t spill more nastiness everywhere. Since you’re going to the trash, you might as well take out the rest of the garbage in the house. So you collect, dispose, and return to resume vacuuming.

7. You finally finish all these tasks — none of which were on your to-do list when you started — and you’re hungry, so you go to make yourself a snack. And that’s when you hear your cat complaining from the other room.

Moral of the story: blame the cat.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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