What do NPT and TPS have in common?

As I’ve mentioned previously, my first professional job was for LP which
began in earnest in 2001. During my three year stint there I received a fairly thorough
introduction into the world of corporate Human
(HR). That was partly because I frequently worked with the department
while supporting and building applications they used, but also because LP was a fortune
500 company and you simply can’t be a giant public company without a significant HR

Unfortunately, like most HR departments LP’s spent a lot of time assuring us meager
employees that their goal was to make our jobs and lives better; while their actions
showed that they primarily wanted our managers (and thus, their managers) to be happy.
To that end, many a form was devised and unleashed upon us, which we were instructed
how and when to fill out and (of course) made to believe would make our jobs and/or
lives better. They had one particularly interesting form called the “Non-Productive
Time” or “NPT” form.Personal productivity?

Now, I don’t know about you, but filling out a form and submitting it to my manager
and then to HR which is designed to track my “non-productive time” just doesn’t sound
like a good idea. The only times I ever remember actually using that form were to
report vacation hours. However, I remember many more times that would likely qualify
as non-productive, at least from LP’s perspective, which were never recorded.

I bring this up now, over three years after leaving LP, because I find myself spending
a significant amount of time at work feeling rather unproductive. It isn’t because
I don’t want to work. I love what I do and am exceedingly happy with my employer and
coworkers. Nonetheless, there are times when I eagerly head to work, excited about
the day to come, only to find myself without any desire to work on the tasks at hand.

This isn’t the first time, either. Days like these have come and gone throughout my
whole career. I suspect it is a cyclical thing – such that if I kept track with enough
detail and context, I could eventually identify a pattern. That’s what I was thinking
about when I remembered the good ol’ NPT form.

Then it occurred to me: tracking my productivity sounds like a dangerous proposition.
What if my employer found the data and saw that only a certain (surprisingly low)
percentage of the time I spend at work is actually productive? On one hand, I’m a
salaried employee so my pay isn’t directly tied to the number of hours I work, but
still – that data is probably not going to help me at my next annual review!

At this point I probably better answer the obvious next question, “What in the world do
you do
with all that non-productive time?” It actually varies quite a bit, but
the short answer is that virtually all of my time is spent doing something that is
productive in someway for someone. While I’m at work but not “working”, I tend to
do a lot of reading and research online. Some of it is entirely unrelated to my job,
like looking at product reviews for lawn
and home
theater equipment
, but the majority of it is work-related either
directly or indirectly.

I read a lot of tech blogs from which I often learn new things that benefit me professionally
and ultimately benefit my employer. I also dig around for new software that’s interesting
or potentially useful. Occasionally I’ll take some time to help a family member with
their web page. That may not sound like it’s work related, but if my boss decides
someday that he needs me to start work on a web-based application it will be quite
helpful that I’ve kept my skills up in that area. There are a few forums and
an IRC channel
that I frequent as well. Those are more social in nature, but it’s amazing how a little
inter-disciplinary networking can provide access to very useful information when I
need it most.

So it’s been a few days now where I’ve been less motivated to accomplish my tasks
and more inclined to dink around. My internal work-ethic-meter is telling me I need
to make some changes and get back into the groove. The first step is to get more sleep
as deprivation seems to have an obvious, observable correlation. The second step is
to, well, just put my head down and get to work. It is amazing how getting one task
finished can motivate me to push on to the next.

I’m curious, though. Have you ever tracked your “non-productive time”? Would you?
If you did, would you report the results?

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