Goals and meaningless work

My company has just had an all-hands-on-deck call for help in a certain department due to a huge onslaught of orders, so I, our Director of Marketing, and many others have volunteered a few days of our time to help.

After a day of doing incredibly repetititive and fairly mind-numbing work, I now better understand the value of goals in imparting artificial meaning to otherwise meaningless work.

(Not that the work I was doing was meaningless. But it was a small slice of a chopped-up workflow … which, in zoomed-in perspective, rendered the precise process I was doing meaningless. In other words, when doing it, it doesn’t make much sense. If seen as one step in a long chain of steps, it makes more sense.)

To motivate myself, I set certain goals: 100,000 units for today, for instance (which I hit). And that made the day meaningful … when otherwise what I was doing felt about as significant as moving rocks from one side of the yard to the other, and back again.

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I also re-discovered what Marx thought of as the dehumanization of labor, and that I was really glad that I have a job that is not brain-optional.

As a bonus, understanding some of the processes of our company from a complete ground-floor perspective, I can see where there might be some opportunities for improvement.

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  • I think of Luther suggesting that a field plowed can bring glory to God just as much as a sermon preached. All work is honorable.

    And yet, I know what you mean about “brain optional” work. That’s how I feel about cardio workouts.

    At that point the life of the mind takes on greater importance. Instead of plugging into my iPod, before a workout I try to read a few pages of some book or journal in order to “load my mind” with something to ponder while I pound out the miles on the treadmill.

    Presently I’m reading Shakespeare : The Biography by Peter Ackroyd — amazing the role of collaboration in the writing of “his” plays!