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Posted on Monday, April 18th, 2011

Dave!A long time ago in a land far away, I took a temp job because I didn't want to go hungry from the lack of hours on a project I had. It was a unique job because it was task-based instead of time-based. Each day you'd get a list of tasks that added up to around 7-1/2 hours (each task having a time value assigned to it). The problem was that the time values were almost always wrong. Most of them in a good way. One of your tasks might have 2 hours assigned to it, but actually only take 30 minutes to complete. The up-side to this was that they didn't care how much time you spent at the office so long as you got your task-list done. If you could show up and finish everything in an hour, you could go home and still get credit for a full eight hours.

Pretty nifty, huh?

One day a co-worker was heading out and said "I'll be ten minutes late coming back from lunch." It was a totally unnecessary statement, since there were no "hours" to keep track of... just tasks. Nobody cared how long a lunch hour you took. They only cared that you finished your tasks. I assumed somebody was going to be looking for him after lunch or something, but that wasn't the case. The guy was new and wasn't used to how things worked.

But... that wasn't the end of it.

From then on, any time somebody left the office for whatever reason, they'd announce that they'd be coming back late, even though there was no earthly reason to do so.

"I'll be fifteen minutes late coming back from break!"

"I'll be thirty minutes late coming back from lunch!

"I'll be an hour late coming back from HR!

Pretty soon it became a contest as to who could be the most "late" coming back to the office. After a couple weeks, it got pretty crazy. Finally, one guy came in, distributed his tasks to friends, announced "I'll be eight hours late coming back from the copy room... I WIN!" and then walked out the door while the entire office stood up an applauded.

He, of course, got paid for those eight hours because his task list got finished and that's the only thing that mattered to his employers.


It may sound crazy, but it was a results-driven workplace which is actually kind of refreshing. Sure the example I'm using is flawed because the tasks weren't attributed the correct time values... but, other than that, I think it's a great system in theory. You get a reasonable set of goals and then get paid for achieving those goals, regardless of how much time it takes. If you are an efficient, productive worker, you are rewarded with a short work-day. If you are an unproductive, inefficient worker, you have a long work-day ahead of you.

But that's not how the real world works. Well, that's not totally true. Some jobs are paid on commission or by assignment, which is kind of the same thing. But it doesn't seem as though that's how most 9-to-5 jobs work. Fast, efficient workers are just given more work to fill out their eight hours. Slow, inefficient workers put in just enough effort to not get fired.

And why do I care? Why am I rambling on about the past and whining about unfair work hours for efficient, productive workers like myself?


How badly do I want to show up to work tomorrow, announce that I'll be thirty-two hours late coming back from the supply closet, and then spend the rest of the week playing Portal 2?

So bad that I don't dare buy a copy tonight.

I've been waiting over two years for this day. I shouldn't be bothered over waiting a few more weeks.

But I am. I am.

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  1. suze says:

    I love the idea of a task-based workplace. I would like to find such a magical place of employment.

    • Dave2 says:

      In all honesty, I think the company got more productivity in less time than any other company I’ve seen. Even with the padded time values on tasks, I think they probably came out ahead on the deal because people focused on work harder than if they’re just killing time until 5:00.

  2. the muskrat says:

    I’m glad I don’t play this game.
    But I’d love to work a place like what you described…oh wait, I do! Except I can’t say “no” to new clients and take on more than I can possibly do, even when I AM efficient or fast. Ah well.

  3. Invader_Stu says:

    I can’t wait to get my hands on Portal 2 🙂 My computer at home is not good enough so I’m being forced to wait for the shops to sell the 360 version.

    • Dave2 says:

      I’m not sure if a Mac laptop is powerful enough for Portal 2 (though the original Portal runs great). I might end up going the Xbox 360 route too. 🙁

  4. Ty-man got a Wii over the weekend. I had trouble playing the Dora game he bought for Miss-Miss. Yeah, I’m THAT bad with video games. Glad you’re excited, though!

    I felt the same way about a book. Waited nine damned years for Jean Auel to finish her Earth Children series. The sixth book came out in late March and I was pretty much worthless all during spring break.

    • Dave2 says:

      Isn’t that the “Clan of the Cave Bear” author? I wasn’t aware that there were sequels to the story which, I admittedly didn’t read, I watch the not-so-great film adaptation. 🙂

      • Yeah, there are six books in all, the “Clan of the Cave Bear” being the first. The movie totally sucked, but the books are VERY well researched. She’s spent her life’s work researching prehistoric peoples and all six books are very detailed. Sometimes to the extreme.

  5. claire says:

    Sounds like my kind of job. I guess I’ve had a couple that would qualify except that the time to complete the tasks was long compared to the flat payout.

  6. Greg says:

    This looks like a great game, and after reading the Wiki on it (and on Portal), I think I need to check it out. Thanks for the info!

  7. martymankins says:

    I’ve always been of the mindset you are paid for what you know and what you do, not how long you spend at a place. If the job takes 13 hours, so be it. If it takes 6 hours, that works as well.

    Any dolt can sit in a chair and cubicle for 8 hours and the bosses that rely on physical presence to gauge productivity will be happy about it. But the smart people work when they are productive and will get done what needs to get done regardless of a time clock.

  8. Avitable says:

    I refuse to buy it yet. I just can’t get sucked into that black hole yet.

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