May 2008

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I really operate like that! I hate big, overwhelming tasks - I have to break them up and just do them so tasks don't add up. If I have a pile on my desk, I will work on it just to get it done. I don't even have an in-box - that's just another spot to put junk you don't want to deal with. I go through my mail, pay my bill online, file them away, read or look at any magazines. And I've had a part-time job for about 20-plus years now.


I know a psychopath who gets an endorphin rush when they throw someone else's possessions into the trash and call it "cleaning".

Gene Wicker Jr

Getting stuff done is part of what drives me in the office, whether its for myself or someone else. A day without something accomplished is a pretty empty day (and happens very seldom because there is so much to do).

The only thing I would add is that after completing really large projects... projects that take many weeks/months... I find that once they are completed it zaps my motivation and leaves me a feeling empty. Its like the project as sucked every drop of energy out of me.


I work around 50 hours a week in our offices and another few hours on the weekends and get paid a reasonable salary package for it.

However, I get much more satisfaction and good feeling when I do small tasks (like preparing training material, presentations, videos, slideshows etc.) for my friends who have smaller businesses and pay me in dinners or beer AND actually say thankyou!

...mmmm beeer!


The only place other place where I've read about the phenomenon that you described was in the Unabomber's Manifesto. He called it the Power Process. I don't know if there is any reputable work on the subject.

Angry Lab Rat

Having just changed jobs from one where no task seemed ever to finish, and most of it seemed inane, to one which involves many small tasks that all have to be done in a reasonable time and are terribly important to each client, I can say that I now get a great deal of satisfaction. I can't say for certain that the task-driven mode is what leads to the satisfaction, but I'm guessing it's a big part.

In general, though, I'm a task-driven sort of person. For instance, I'm a slow reader for most books, but the books which are composed of many small chapters go much further and are more likely to keep my interest than ones with very few or no chapters. I get that little thrill at the end of each chapter, which makes me want to turn the page and keep reading.

And, yes, I blog, therefore I am. Check it out (shameless advertising):


Yes & yes. My greatest joy is throwing shit away that I don't need. At work, at home, doesn't matter.

Hmmm. That sounds kinda depressing.

Guess I'll go throw some shit away.


hmmmmmm you then wonder if it's worth putting a comment here, as there are so many before it and most people would fail to read past the 10th comment (i know i did)...

but yes that's the soul reason I blog... i don't have the largest readership, and though i know some people do read there are never any comments.

but i'm a writer, and i enjoy writing on my blog, and do feel accomplished when i post something that's been rolling round in my head for some time!

so stuff ya all - i'll keep writing, even if u don't read it :-p


Q: Do you get pleasure from completing relatively unimportant tasks? - Scott

A: Oh, yes! Very much so.

Q: And if so, do you work more than 40 hours per week, including optional work such as blogging? - Scott

A: Nah, man! Are you crazy? Getting the bed made is enough for me...


I always get a small endorphin rush whenever I complete a budget or P&L forecast. The rush is from getting the job done, not because the forecast is accurate. I know that I'll never be held accountable for the accuracy of the numbers. All that matters is that the forecast shows we will make a reasonable amount of money. But... I always put in the time and effort like it really matters. One day I'll completely make something up and pass it off as lots of work.

I "work" all the time. I'm only paid for 40 hours of that work, so that's all the time I put into my job. All the other "work" is doing things for myself and my family.


You know that you are going to strike a chord with this post. Timely and relevant. I predict a high number of comments.



You know that you are going to strike a cord with this post. Timely and relevant. I predict a high number of comments.


Grover B. Hayes

I usually do NOT get satisfaction from completing relatively unimportant tasks. Think about it: if all we needed to do to get satisfaction was to check off a to-do list item, then we could just list simple tasks like breathing and get the same rush as we would from closing a million dollar deal. You got satisfaction from cleaning because it was NOT easy (it was tedious, plus the clutter had probably been gnawing at you, subconsciously AND consciously, for some time). Part of the alienation of modern office life (which you chronicle in Dilbert) is that so many of the tasks we do seem to have miniscule (if any) impact on the business..just like the PowerPoint slides you mention. Therefore, I'm surprised you took satisfaction from them.

rita mae

JOHN HAGGARDY writes: [I've been a loyal Dilbert fan for years, but this patronizing post is the last straw. People like completing tasks? What a shocker! In response to this mundane insight, I am removing dilbert and this blog from my RSS feeds. (PS yay 3rd post!!) ]

Hey, John! Loyal Dilbert fan? For years? One post you don't like and you are bailing? Go satisfy yourself with a claw hammer, you monkey bone.

And, you weren't the 3rd post. You, just like the rest of us, posted after the first two were entered and okayed by Scott. Get a frickin' life and don't come back until you apologize. Sit in your time-out chair and don't even ask to get up until then. And, when you apologize you better act like you REALLY mean it. And don't ask why. You know why. Behave yourself and you won't get in trouble. (I was home with 14 of my 17 grandkids over the Christmas holiday, so don't mess with me or Scott.)

Rita (the scary Grandma) Mae

Dan B.

I think it's the destination and not the journey in that instance... it's not the work as much as the end result that does it for me.


Yeah, you're so much right Scott! I exceeded 500 hours of overtime last week. Getting things done creates an effect in me I called "programmer's rush" when I still was a programmer. It came whenever I finished automating some process. I get the same today when I finish a prject and it's stronger the longer I've been working on a project straight. Let's say it's warm and fuzzy if I reach that after 8 hours but after 14 hours it comes to the quality of pure joy :)


Yes, I definitely do that. Every time I finish a small task, it makes me feel like I just shot some endorphins into my veins. And yes, I do have a blog that nobody reads. Also, I get that endorphin dose from cleaning my desk too.

But I still hate working 40 hours a week. I take off early whenever possible and I'm gonna try to switch to part-time soon. I am also in grad school and I get the same feeling every time I finish a project... but I hate actually starting on the project. I know that I'll enjoy working on it and that I'll enjoy finishing it, but for some reason, I just don't want to do it.

I'm the same way with a lot of things... I love playing sports, but I never want to get off my ass to do it. I enjoy most of my classes, but I always take my laptop with me and surf the Internet while I should be paying attention. I even like my job, but I'm constantly showing up late and leaving early. Why? I don't know, but it doesn't fit your theory. Maybe I'm an exception.


I was wondering why I continued to maintain my blog when only one of my friends and my dad ever read it.

Alice in Wonderland

No, I am in tech support and I hate work. It takes time away from what I really want to do.


You hit the nail on the head for the driving impetus behind online grinding games like Everquest and World of Warcraft. This genre of games often derails from the 'fun' tracks and blazes a trail into 'obsessive compulsive demand for goal completion' territory, similar to what you described with your desk.

For example: Talk to the computer, it tells you to kill 12 rats and get their bladders. You spend the next 45 minutes running around a forest looking for rats, and then pressing the damage buttons til they're dead. Get the bladders, turn them in, and receive your thrill of joy for completing a job. Do this sort of thing enough and you get an even bigger thrill of watching a statistic number increment (yellow light effects and a neat sound effect).

These things aren't 'fun' in the traditional sense, but they are compulsive. Cleaning up a room, doing the dishes, mowing the yard, living to 90, all these things aren't pleasant, but they pay off with a 'I did that' spurt of pleasure.

And I wouldn't be surprised to find out it's biochemical in origin, like you say.


I think you may have hit on a unique aspect of your demographic--rampant OCD, as evidenced by the number who could not resist correcting a misspelling.

The mundane tasks that I do occasinally do give me satisfaction. The ones I have to do on a regular basis are simply tedious without any real gratification. I know that they will have to be done again, tomorrow. Anything you can point to and say, "See, that's done" seems satisfying--the longer it will stay done, the more satisfying. And yes, I work 60+ hours a week.


Hi Scott,

This is a significant reason why games like World of Warcraft are so popular. You'd find it pretty hard to identify a less productive way to spend your time, yet a significant number of people do.


There is no greater joy than shoveling snow.

Will Von Wizzlepig

My take on that would be that people get genuine physical pleasure from that kind of objectively tangible result-related work... when it is new to them.

Once you are used to a job, it is a rare person who doesn't begin to do things reflexively, and the finished product soon falls into the same category as the view of the Eiffel tower for the people who live next to it: they stop seeing it.

I framed houses a bit in college, and those first few houses were a real rush.

You don't clean your desk much, do you?

Mark Thorson

I'm working on a PowerPoint
presentation now. It'll
probably be 50 to 100 slides,
when I'm done, and it'll be
great. And it very well might
alter the course of the
company I work for.

I do have a great feeling of
accomplishment when completing
a good PowerPoint presentation
or a good diagram in Adobe
Illustrator. I could work
40 hours a week or more, and
my bodd would be delighted
if I did. However, I seldom
work more than 20 hours a

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