It's not just about me and my dream of doing nothing. It's about all of us. I don't know what happened to me at that hypnotherapist and, I don't know, maybe it was just shock and it's wearing off now, but when I saw that fat man keel over and die -- Michael, we don't have a lot of time on this earth! We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements. -- Peter Gibbons in Office Space
A cautionary note: If you take this advice you just might get fired. Also, you may begin to live a life you've dreamed of, in a world where you are no longer trapped by endless tasks, time-draining meetings and soul-sucking work.
I already know I’m going to get tons of flak for this column. It will most likely comes from lazy people who are trying to ride others' strong work ethics, take credit for their high-quality performance and generally work to contain people in their little nine-to-five boxes anyway. I’m writing this for all of the entrepreneurial-minded people out there stuck in their nine-to-five jobs.
First of all, I feel your pain. I’m a horrible employee, but self-proclaimed “amazing entrepreneur.” Seriously though, I was not made for the corporate world, and realized that early on. It is my belief that there are many souls out there stuck in the nine-to-five corporate grind because they are too afraid to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
Tim Ferriss and Jason Fried preach these messages. Granted, this column is somewhat of a satire. My underlying point is don’t get stuck living a life you don’t enjoy. These tips are based on personal experiences and tactics I’ve used in the wild. Plus, I'm sure Peter Gibbons would endorse it fully.
1. Outsource your work.
Hire an outside assistant of some sort. You’ll be paying out of your pocket. Your company doesn’t have to know, or they can. It doesn’t matter. If you’re paying for it, you have the last say and can confirm the quality is good. Go for it.
You can pass off busy work to this person, create deadlines and make sure that everything gets done with super-specific guidelines and necessary detail. Whether middle manager or entry-level employee, there are tasks that you’ve been assigned that just don’t need to be done by you. Use Craigslist or Upwork and outsource.
2. Delegate everything.
- Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least 15 minutes late, ah, I use the side door -- that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh -- and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.
- Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?
- Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual, work.
In the same vein as above, delegate everything you can. Let’s be honest, your time is much too valuable to be creating the new cover sheets for your TPS reports. Assign someone else to do that, and anything else that can be delegated.
3. Work on side projects.
With the two aforementioned activities done effectively, you will have more free time. Use this time wisely. You can start building a side project with the end goal of creating your own business. Be careful if you’re competing in the same industry though. This is a touchy issue so make sure to consult an attorney if you have any questions.
Although I am my own boss, in addition to my main companies, I have side projects. Side projects are fun. They're passion projects. They help me stay creative, empower me to make mistakes without consequence and provide me new opportunities to learn. Sometimes these side projects actually manifest into my main projects, and it’s fun to go through the process.
4. Work on personal and professional development.
Use your newfound time to focus on skills and personal development that will either allow you to start your own company or get a different job.
Reading helps me focus on all of my personal development, and I schedule time to read daily. There are countless way I grow professionally, and set scheduled time aside for that as well. General Assembly, which offers online classes, is one of my favorite ways to focus on new skills. I just learned how to rapidly prototype mobile apps in Keynote. Awesome.
5. Buddy up to your boss’s spouse.
This is a job-security tactic. Plain and simple, if your boss’s spouse likes you, you aren’t going anywhere.
6. Send co-workers birthday presents.
This is another job-security tactic. Office politics matter. Everyone is vying for your position and will “Et Tu Brute” you in a second given the chance. You nine-to-fivers are as loyal as thieves. A birthday is a special time for anyone, and this will help earn a special spot in all of your co-worker’s hearts and keep you in their good graces. Automate this task with your new assistant.
7. Take on more work.
With your new assistant and your ability to successfully delegate everything, you’re going to be able to take on more work. Taking on more work establishes your value in the company and makes you even more irreplaceable. Plus, it gives you more opportunity to outsource and delegate.
8. Meet clients off site.
- Bob Porter: Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.
- Peter Gibbons: I wouldn't say I've been "missing" it, Bob.
Meeting with clients off site does a number of things:
- You can develop stronger client relationships. These are typically the most valuable relationships you have while working for another company. These are your assets if you ever decide to strike out on your own.
- It instills trust and reliability in your capabilities in the eyes of your bosses and management. Think about how you’ll look if you’re always the one “going out and making sure the clients/customers are happy.” That’s good for you.
- It allows you to create a more flexible work schedule. If you want to sleep in one morning, schedule a visit off site so that you can simply drive to your client’s office directly from home. Being out of the office more will train your bosses and co-workers to expect you to be gone more.
9. Don’t respond to all emails.
Most emails are not important. Most emails are conversations taking place back and forth, ideas about something or whatever. Email can be one of your biggest time sucks. If you start grooming your bosses and co-workers to not expect you to respond to all emails, you'll ultimately save yourself lots of time and energy.
10. Create office hours.
Office hours are times when co-workers and bosses can set time to meet with you. It gives everyone the ability to catch up as needed. Office hours are great for dictating and controlling your own schedule.
11. Send representatives on your behalf to meetings.
Meetings are another total time suck, especially the traditional types. You usually just sit around and talk circles about nothing. Forget that. Instead, use your entry-level assistant or other co-workers to sit in on meetings for you. It will make people feel like you’re more important than you probably are, and also save you from getting sucked into meetings.
12. Lead social goodness campaigns.
Don’t ask permission for this. Seriously. Find a cause worthy of volunteering your time. Figure out how to do it. Volunteer a couple times. Rally some coworkers. Then, once all that has been done, find a cause, volunteer, rally coworkers, approach management and let them know that you’ve created a program that allows the company to give back socially.
I’m a big fan of youth charities such as Big Brother Big Sister or Boys and Girls Clubs. Whatever you’re passionate about, focus on those causes. This is great for simply giving back, and doing something positive with your extra time.
So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life. -- Peter Gibbons
Take back your life, and figure out what you want to do. Don’t waste it working yourself to the bone. Do what you enjoy, take risks and have fun.