Meta Work Talk

man working with his hands
Image: Eddie Klaus

I’ve been thinking lately about talking about work. It’s something young people fresh out of college naturally pick up, but it can be kind of problematic.

While it’s ok (and natural) to be inclined towards topics on productivity and case studies of successful people, I find that it’s a distraction 95 percent of the time.

The remaining 5 percent are moments when a video, article or podcast is in perfect alignment with one’s current situation. If you’re just starting out building a blog, then the “Start a blog” resources on ProBlogger are gold. They belong to the 5 percent.

The rest, like podcasts on finding readers, building a community or making money blogging belong to the 95 percent for you. If you’re just setting up your blog, anything aside from Getting Started guides are a distraction. Even the third Getting Started guide may be a distraction.

Most dangerous of all is when we don’t see the line separating the 95-5. That’s when we waste an unspeakable amount of time not focusing on what matters at that moment for our business or career.

That said, I’m often guilty for consuming ‘content’ broadly related to my topics of interest (blogging, writing in general, nonfiction, filmmaking, technology in general, coding, making tech hardware). I guess this is my note to self?

I have to say, though – I’ve observed many friends who are guilty of the same. At least I’m becoming aware of the problem. I hope for the same for them. Every solution begins with awareness of the problem. That’s why meditation is now making waves all over the world.

If it’s problematic, why do so many people continue to watch videos that are purportedly going to help them in their careers (but probably aren’t actually going to help because there’s poor alignment between the topic and their work situation at the moment)?

I can think of three main reasons:

  1. I need inspiration!
  2. It’s satisyfing to learn new things.
  3. It’s easier than actually doing the work.

I think everyone understands the first two, but few at all realise that the third is even a part of their motivation to watch, read and listen to all that material on the internet.

Casey Neistat produces interesting films, and in his extremely popular vlogs (he just hit 3 million subscribers) he occasionally talks about his work. His videos on How to make films and another by Gizmodo on ‘Casey Neistat’s Wildly Functional Studio‘ have millions of views each. Why?

Because watching other people doing work you want to do is so much easier than doing the work itself.

Notice that Casey Neistat hardly ever goes into meta work talk. He talks about work, but he doesn’t talk about how he goes about his work. There’s a difference.

Lately I’ve come to notice that some people are above meta work talk. They don’t feel inclined to join the rough and talk about how to maximise productivity in a day. They just focus on doing the work.

Some of them, like Gary Vaynerchuk and Casey Neistat, are getting behind the call to stay focused and put in the hours to create something meaningful. Do the work first. There are no shortcuts.

(A side note: American soft power seems to be slowly shifting from primetime TV shows to independent personal brands like Casey Neistat, Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, etc. on YouTube and Medium and blogs. Since they have their personal reputation perpetually on the line, I tend to trust them more than TV producers and actors.)

If you ever find yourself watching one too many videos on coding or make-up or filmmaking, stop and ponder for just a moment and ask yourself: Are you watching videos because the information is immediately useful to your work at this moment, or because it’s easier than actually doing the work?