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work, wasted years

F New things are more helpful than estimating how much time people spend People are depressed about a particular activity in their life. You know things like this: You’re going to be sleeping a third of your time, looking at your phone for almost a decade, and four months deciding what to watch on a streaming service.

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Maryland and Delaware Enterprise University Partners (a new study by academics composed of *)) to apply this approach to the workplace. Using a time-use survey of 5,000 office workers in the U.S. and U.K., researchers determined how many minutes people waste each workday on nonsense activities. (Conferences are excluded: they often prove useless, but not always, and are not for everyone.) The authors then extrapolate these numbers to arrive at a “weighted total void” ( wtf) can better spend time on lifetime estimation. The results are simply unbelievable.

Correcting typos takes an average of 20 minutes a day for each white-collar worker, which is equivalent to 180 days, or half a year, in a 45-year career . Some words are so often misspelled that they themselves can waste the average employee’s survival time. “Thnaks” was the worst offender in the English-speaking world, followed by “teh”, “yuo” and “remeber”. The time for an average worker to write “Bets Wish” is also calculated in days.

The gestation period of a goat is approximately 145 days. It’s also how long the average worker spends logging things in during their working life. Security concerns mean that some time is bound to be consumed this way. However, trying to remember passwords, entering them incorrectly, or updating them can waste months. As much time as waiting for something to happen, vacancies across the economy are staring at screens.

If getting into something wastes a lot of time, so does closing them. Eliminating help windows and tooltips can take days. Rejecting repeated requests to schedule an update for your OS is another piece of existence that you’ll never come back to. Toggle pop-up ads and try to pause auto-playing videos take time away from learning to knit or visiting Machu Picchu.

A series of “tidying up” activities took the average worker over four months. Deleting emails will take you about six weeks. Click a Slack channel to read messages that don’t work for you, or clear notifications on your phone screen for articles you’ll never check: Tasks like these take days each.

Various types of formatting tasks constitute another huge time-consuming task. Think about trying to change the margins in a Word or Google Doc, or spending hours trying to figure out exactly where you need to put missing parentheses in that broken spreadsheet formula. Shakespeare wrote King Lear at a time when the average office worker was changing font sizes in his career.

Redoing work you failed to save is a category in itself because it involves psychological trauma. Since many programs automatically save revisions, the issue has been mitigated, but not resolved. The battery still drains and the internet connection still fails at critical moments. Posting a series of great insights in Google Docs, failing to save them and then closing everything leads to a special kind of desperation. The same goes for creating an org chart with hundreds of arrows and text boxes and realizing you’re missing someone.

These are just some of the many ways in which time is often wasted. Coordinate diaries for meetings that will be cancelled later: One more month. Waiting for people to repeat themselves because they muted by mistake: two weeks. Spend a few hours crafting an email and leave it in the drafts folder: two days. Desperately opening and closing various flaps on a stubborn printer: a day.

madeup Research shows that technology The key lies in the time that the heart squanders here. Technology can also help. Services that sync journals and autocorrect options already exist; passwords will no doubt be eventually replaced by facial recognition and fingerprint logins. Whether the time so saved will be put to more productive use, such as reading this column, is a legitimate question. But many years of workers’ lives are wasted on meaningless activities. All improvements need a heartfelt thanks.

Read more from us Bartleby, columnist on management and work:

Official business Machine: Symbol of greed or gospel of business? (June 9)

Don’t put your Going to work by myself (June 2nd)

Little Power Gesture (May 28)

This article appeared in the commercial print edition titled “Work, Wasted Years”

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