Urban Dictionary defines “metawork”, in part, as “trivial or unnecessary work.” If only it were that simple.
I think of metawork having more in common with metadata (data about data). The words you’re reading right now are data. If you go to ‘view source’ in your browser you’ll see, in the source code for the page, data about the data. You’re (I hope) interested in the data – the words – not the metadata. But your browser needs that metadata to know how to display the words. Search engines need it to know how to classify the information. It’s not core to the content, but it’s necessary for the delivery.
Just as metadata is data about data, metawork is work about work. But the farther your work gets from directly delivering or communicating value, the closer it gets to metawork. Selling something? Work. Documenting the sales process? That’s metawork. Updating a Web page that communicates to customers? Work. Going through a process to request those changes? Metawork.
Your work probably contains a blend of work and metawork. I know mine does.
And there’s nothing wrong with metawork. We need it so people can collaborate and communicate in business. We also need heat and air conditioning for our office buildings. Climate control doesn’t directly create value for customers and shareholders, but we don’t cut the power and make people freeze in winter and swelter in summer. We spend what’s needed. And no more.
There’s a certain amount of status reporting and processes to go through. Do it. Don’t complain about it, any more than you complain about having to pay for utilities. But – as with utilities -always remember that it’s not an end in itself. You don’t put more effort or money into heating and cooling the building than you need to. Treat metawork the same way. Keep it as efficient, low-cost and streamlined as possible. Get it out of the way so you can focus on work that delivers value.
photo by spacemanbobby