Who among us would not love to work less and play more? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could replace pointless meetings with our favorite hobbies? What would you do to create a Utopian world with no unnecessary client calls or annoying “reply all” emails? Would you lie? Stretch the truth?
I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I’m intrigued by the idea of being able to earn an income in less time, especially since I’ll be needing to earn an income while my family travels around the United States for a year. After all, it’d be great if I actually got to see some of the places we’ll be visiting. Mr. Ferriss promises that it’s possible to be productive and profitable in one tenth of the time most Americans allot for work.
He also suggests that you can save yourself a lot of time if you tell a few half truths here and there.
For example, you can avoid lengthy phone calls by asking “how can I help you?” right away instead of doing the “how are you?” dance for a few minutes. Good advice. And if that doesn’t work, you can encourage a shorter call by saying, “I have another call in five minutes, how can I help you in the next couple minutes?” Or try, “I’m in the middle of something right now but I’d be happy to help, is this something you can email me about?”
Want to skip out on a meeting? Propose the idea of working instead of attending meetings and having someone recap the meeting for you later. Or, make up an excuse to get out of the meeting and prove that no one missed you anyway in order to avoid future meetings.
While these ideas are probably effective, and I can certainly see a need for a technique to avoid pointless work, the means to the end seem to come uncomfortably close to crossing an ethical line.
If you say you have a call in five minutes and you do not - isn’t that lying?
If you could go to the meeting but make up an excuse not to just to prove a point later - isn’t that manipulating the truth?
But more importantly - is that OK?
There is no hard and fast answer, I know. Legally, technically, there is no law against pretending to be busier than you are. But personally, setting a precedent of relying on smoke and mirrors to achieve the desired outcome seems like a bad idea. You run the risk of becoming the person who’s willing to say anything to get what they want - and who can predict where that behavioral boundary begins and ends?
But man if those rambling phone calls aren’t time sucks!
Is a little white lie worth a little more time?