Talkin’ About My Generation: Idle Hands are Not the Devil’s Work

September 6, 2007

This excellent post on Busyness vs. Burst by Anne Zulenka at Web Worker Daily seems to sum up one of the key differences between the younger generations and our elders.  For the large part, we don’t equate “busy-ness” with productivity.  Thanks to a ton of different options for remote working and communication, we don’t feel the need to be chained to desk either -not to discount the need for face-time with your co-workers, but really, is it necessary to be able SEE them at all times?  Especially for creative disciplines like design or writing.

That brings me to my next point – most creative types spend a certain amount of time idle, or surfing the web, looking for inspiration or the next big idea, or just tinkering with something that seems kind of useless.  Others often don’t realize that down-time is actually essential, because no one can be “on” or maintain a burst, to use Anne’s terminology, 24/7.  Clearly working in bursts, or working when one feels the most creative/able, won’t work in every industry (e.g. it wouldn’t fly in any customer service-related field), but it’s an idea that’s increasingly valid as technology makes things possible that would have been unheard of even five or ten years ago.

That, I think, is where some of the generational friction lies – the idea that “just thinking” or “surfing the web” with no immediate purpose , or not at least maintaining the appearance of busy-ness is not nearly as acceptable outside of the younger groups (at least in my experience).  However, everyone has their unproductive moments – c’mon, who has never read non-work-related sites, checked personal email, made personal calls, or just plain thought about something that is not related to the task at hand at work?  We’re not robots, and the fact that younger people are refusing, in increasing numbers, to pretend to be one at work is seems to be part of that generational friction I mentioned earlier. 

Here are the previous two “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” posts: here and here.

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