Walking on the beach one morning while on vacation last week, I saw a man in the distance digging a hole in the sand. As I got closer, I realized that this man, a maintenance worker for the property at this spot, was digging holes in which to bury the seaweed that he had previously raked into neat little piles.  There was a lot of beach and many piles.

I’m not quite sure whether this would qualify as a reactive or preventive maintenance task, but I do know that it couldn’t possibly be a very fulfilling task…pun intended.

We all have “filling hole” types of tasks that occupy parts of our day and most managers are guilty of creating and assigning them to their employees.  – You know, creating the reports no one ever looks at, the manual processes that might be automated and of course, the many meetings without purpose or clear objectives.

The insidious thing about of these types of  tasks is that although they generally begin with the best intentions, they tend to gradually accumulate and lose value until like a tick, they have embedded themselves and worked to suck the joy out of our jobs and those of our employees.  Additionally, our most precious resource, time, becomes the host for these low value parasitic chores.  It’s important to recognize these types of tasks and do what we can to clean them out of our daily lives and those of our employees.

As for the resort and the poor soul filling holes with seaweed in the hot sun; assuming a seaweed-free beach is a valuable aesthetic and important to their guests, what could they possibly do?  – Here are just a few ideas:

  • Provide better tools – there must be some kind of power tool that could make this job easier.
  • Share the task and cost of an automated pick-up system with their neighbor resorts.
  • If they are really limited to the rake and shovel method, at least make sure the chore is spread among several people.

Much like spring cleaning, periodically review your own regular, recurring tasks and those you have created for your employees.   Figure out a way to improve the way you do the ones that you still consider valuable and discard the ones that offer no real value or have you just filling the holes in your work day.