Question 67 of 365: Why is time theft so seductive, and in many cases, productive?

I am a time thief. I take away time from my current employer in order to work on things that are not in my job description. I will admit that freely, even to the people I work for. But, up until recently, I have been able to keep it under control.

Until recently, I have kept my Twitter habits down to asking questions and sharing resources. I have kept my blogging to a few times a month. And until very recently, I have not tried to create brand new communities on the fly. In other words: I used to be an undercover time thief. I was able to couch everything that I was doing in the guise that I was working very hard on some specific project that someone has asked me to do.

Now, though, I brandish my time theft, hoping that people will catch me in the act. I blog daily. I have set up a new twitter account, and I have been creating a community of folks who are interested in working through the creative process as I am.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get my job done. I answer my e-mail and all of my deadlines are met. I work on the things I have been assigned and even take on “official projects” that aren’t tasked to me.

But, here is the difference: I used to cultivate resources and ideas just in case the opportunity arose that I (or someone else I worked with) might need them. Now, I build those resources and explore those ideas and see if they are worthy of exploring further. I used to wait upon future productivity, and now I am productive, constantly.

This is the virtue of Google’s 20% time. It is the virtue of being 80% done.

I am now a firm believer in the idea that no authentic conversation is isolated. I believe that everything that I create can be used for multiple purposes and that the knowledge that I gain from stories in one arena directly benefits me in all other arenas.

Now, I can say this because all of the things I am interested in are in roughly the same genre. I am not, for example, working on crop dusting instead of building an online school. What I am doing is figuring out how to better ask questions, create networks, garner feedback, and create buy-in. All of these things are ones that I have needed to figure out in my school district, but I have lacked the audience necessary to get them done. Because I no longer have a group of kids that I get to think things through with on a daily basis, I must turn to figuring things out within a network.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure out that I had to be a time thief in order to create that network, though. I’m also not sure why I hid it for so long. I believe that we should all be time thieves. We should all be looking to create something new that could directly benefit the work we are doing if only someone would ask us to do it. I believe that doing these things within my daily work schedule allows me to see what is coming and to create an environment that is ready to receive it.

I now believe that doing your job as it was created is tantamount to disloyalty. Stealing time should become an honored tradition. It should be something that we should tack up on the walls of our companies and schools.

“This is what I did, when I was finished with all of the other things that I had to do!”

“These are the conversations I had.”

“This is what I created.”

Because, let’s call Twitter what it is: Time Theft. It isn’t a required function of your job, and yet you do it anyway. Let’s call blogging what it is too, and facebooking and recording videos, and doing Google Chats with colleagues across the country. All of these things are time theft and until we celebrate them, we will never truly understand the power that doing something “else” will bring. We will never get the authentic environment we all crave. We will never learn to be better.

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