Bob Goldman

So, what did you accomplish today? Don't answer that!

If a recent research study from a team of Harvard researchers is correct, there's a very good chance that contemplating your accomplishments, or lack thereof, will leave you overcome with sadness and doubting your own self-worth.

That's right. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer believe that it's damaging to your self-esteem to experience a workday, in which "as mid-afternoon races toward late afternoon, you realize you haven't really gotten anything done." As they so poignantly point out, "not only do unproductive days like this detract from the success of your projects, your team and your organization, they can endanger your own well-being."

Imagine -- one unproductive day and some people sink into a funk so profound that even the Harvard elites start to care. I know this level of concern sounds ridiculous to you -- a person who has experienced months, years, decades of severe unproductivity, without ever once doubting your supreme wonderfulness. But then again, you're you, and with your good looks and winning personality, any company would be lucky to have you as employee eye-candy.

For those misguided employees who actually expect to accomplish something between nine and five, the productivity of the Harvard team has resulted in a book, "The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work." A catchy title, but you don't have to worry about finding the time to read a whole book when you're so busy trying to look busy. The authors recently published an executive summary of their theories in The Wall Street Journal under the title, "How to Save an Unproductive Day in 25 Minutes" and you know I'm not too busy to share.

"Carve out a time-oasis " is suggestion No. 1. This will take 20 of the 25 minutes you have set aside for the rescue effort. "Move something off your schedule for the remainder of the day," the authors advise. "Protecting just 20 minutes to focus -- uninterrupted -- on that meaningful project."

This period of contemplation is so important the authors suggest that you might have to stay late to get it done. Impossible! If you're not down with a down elevator at 4:59 p.m., you may lose your place at the happy hour buffet at the Kit Kat Klub. Then you'll never have time to power down that second dozen of Buffalo chicken wings before the cold, soggy buffet remains are donated to the local homeless shelter. And you know how it affects your sense of self-worth when you have to go down to the shelter and wrestle those wings out of the hands of the homeless.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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