2 min read

Time to lean, time to clean

Time to lean, time to clean
Photo by Icons8 Team / Unsplash
What If Instead of Trying to Manage Your Time, You Set It Free?
The cultural critic Jenny Odell sees a way out of our obsession with personal efficiency.
She was describing working at an ice-cream parlor and had a very different idea of what was owed than her boss did. ‘‘Time to lean, time to clean’’ is what a boss would say. It’s like, if you’re physically present, you should be creating work for yourself. That’s versus someone in her position who’s thinking, I signed up to do the tasks that need to be done in any particular moment. That’s a lot more finite than ‘‘time to lean, time to clean,’’ which is like, if you’re here, you must be performing the image of work at all times, including making up nonsensical tasks. There’s a distinction between signing up to do a job and signing up to have every second micromanaged.

It's all part of that job to be done vs time to spend choice. You either commit to being at work 9 to 5, or you commit to finish your work.

The former has the benefit that come 5PM you close you're laptop, leave your store, shutter the blinds, no matter what the status of your work is, or what amount of backlog is there. You've got busy days, you got easy days, but you're stuck for that time at work.

The latter forces you to finish your work. If it's busy you work late into the evenings, but if you finish the job at noon, you take the afternoon off. The work is done and everyone is happy.

In my opinion, although I present it rather black and white, it's indeed one or the other. Either your employer expects you to be at work for a set period of time, or they expect you to complete a job.

Employers who expect you to go outside of time to complete your job have no respect for your personal life and are bad at project management.

Employers who expect you to keep busy even when the job's done not only award productivity with a sense of "you're never done, no matter how good/fast you are", they also show they don't trust their employees and are micromanaging.

I have no judgement for people choosing to commit either time or effort as the main measure of their work. Both have their benefits (the former allows you to know you're always off at 5, the latter allows you to reward yourself with an afternoon free to relax). I do have a problem with employers that expect both. There's always work to be done, and employers should promote a healthy life/work balance, with life always getting the upper hand.