Sometimes crap work is fun work

by | Aug 22, 2016 | General Productivity

Takeaway: Sometimes “crap work”—the low-return tasks that need to get done, like admin work—isn’t worth eliminating or delegating. While crap work may be lower-return than your other tasks, if it’s fun or meaningful, it may not be all that crappy after all.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 17s.


A lot of writers in the productivity space—myself included—rail against crap work. Crap work is the stuff we have to do as a part of our job that provides us with a low return on our time—tasks like administrative work, data entry, scheduling things, or anything else we could automate or hire someone else to do.

The reason crap work is easy to rail against is obvious—there’s an opportunity cost to doing it. Every minute that you spend doing crap work is one minute you can’t spend on your most important work, like engineering new products, brainstorming new ideas, training your team, and building up your skill set. Common sense would have it that we should eliminate, delegate, shrink, or outsource crap work whenever we can.

But in the pursuit of productivity, it can be easy to forget about a hidden benefit of doing crap work: that it can be fun! This doesn’t apply to all of our crap work—or even most of it—but it does apply to some tasks that we do.

Take email, as an example. When I recently got curious and asked Derek Sivers, a TED speaker, author of Anything You Want, and founder of CD Baby, who posts his email address publicly on his site why he does so, he told me this:

I say “no” to everything: public speaking, interviews, investment opportunities. Answering emails is my one act of public service. I decided years ago, as a rule, that I would always provide my email publicly and read everything that comes through. It’s my way of staying connected to the needs of my readers. It’s where most of my best blog ideas come from. When I notice a particular question coming up a lot (say, like on how to shift to a new career), I write about it.”

Who is some productivity expert to tell you that you should only check your email every second Thursday when you get a genuine enjoyment out of keeping in touch with people, and you feel more engaged with your work when you stay on top of things?

It’s always worth evaluating how much less productive crap work makes you, against how fun and meaningful you find it.

The same is true for the tasks in your home life. Sure, you could buy back many hours of your life by hiring someone to mow your lawn or clean your house, but what if those tasks bring you genuine enjoyment?

Several weeks back I wrote about how nothing will make you more productive than caring about your work. When your crap work makes you feel connected with the work you do, and makes you happier and more motivated at the same time, maybe it’s not so crappy after all.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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