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Posted on: Friday, 05 March 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Jack had taken three rounds of convincing before he agreed to show up at a meeting. Now as we sit there and watch people talk about the insignificantly stupid things like building a uniform process for improving developer productivity, I can here the clicks and ticks of Jack's keyboard.

A few of us decide to peek into his monitor to see what he is up to. Jack has picked up a small class in his project to refractor, has disconnected from the meeting and has decided that he is going to utilize the magic minutes we are whining away doing nothing in the meeting.

It is almost as if Jack is alone in the room and the meeting or all of us do not even exist.

What all of us, other than Jack, are doing in that meeting however is what Seth Godin, in his post, refers to as modern procrastination. Seth explains:

The lizard brain adores a deadline that slips, an item that doesn't ship and most of all, busywork.

Laziness in a white collar job has nothing to do with avoiding hard physical labor. “Who wants to help me move this box!” Instead, it has to do with avoiding difficult (and apparently risky) intellectual labor.

"Honey, how was your day?"

"Oh, I was busy, incredibly busy."

"I get that you were busy. But did you do anything important?"

Busy does not equal important. Measured doesn't mean mattered.

When the resistance pushes you to do the quick reaction, the instant message, the 'ping-are-you-still-there', perhaps it pays to push in precisely the opposite direction. Perhaps it's time for the blank sheet of paper, the cancellation of a long-time money loser, the difficult conversation, the creative breakthrough...

Or you could check your email.

The key insight here is that most of our days, these days are not made up of long work hours. They are in fact made up of magic-minutes sandwiched between reptilian lizard brain grunt work that keeps you busy with nothingness

How you disconnect with this nothingness and make the most of these magic minutes ultimately decides how much genuine work you can do on any given day. I am not talking about multi-tasking here. What I am talking about is totally disconnecting from what does not matter to you and utilizing minutes of nothingness on things that matter.

Go ahead, download that podcast on programming or that audio-book and listen to it while you are whining your time away on a cab, bus or car to office. Keep your list of small-classes-that-need-refactoring ready and work on a class in a meeting that is becoming excruciatingly boring.

Go utilize those magic minutes and go get something done.

I wish you good luck.