Here’s the answer to the Jeb Bush ‘work more’ problem

Jeb Bush is taking some heat for comments about the American people needing to work more. Tech can help us work less.

jeb bush announcement
Credit: Joe Skipper/Reuters

Jeb Bush thinks you need to work more.

Taken in context, he was actually referring to part-time employees and those who are unemployed, not telling us we need to keep checking our phones at 11 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. to the sounds of incoming emails. He wasn’t telling the phone support staff to work 70 hours per week instead of 50 or 60. He wasn’t suggesting that a $100,000-a-year knowledge worker needs to get an extra part-time job, although that is one path to success (if you define success as more car payments). Is he out of touch with the American people? Not sure. That’s an issue for the voters to decide. However, part of me wonders if the opposite of "working more" is true.

I think we need to work a lot less. We just need to work smarter. And technology is here to help. As usual, some of the most pressing concerns in the political landscape can be addressed with better technology, smarter thinking and a more intentional approach.

I have a good example of this. Lately, I’ve been testing a few virtual assistant services like FancyHands, Time Etc. and Red Butler. I’ll post a full report soon, but these services have helped me work much smarter. I can assign administrative tasks to someone who works in another part of the country who actually has the skills and experience required for those tasks. Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize these services have cut down on my work time by about five hours per week. I’m planning on using them even more in the next six months. Maybe they'll save me 10 hours per week, who knows?

As usual, I want technology to help and then step out of the way. The ultimate goal is not to sit on a chaise lounge all day by the pool and end up looking like the people in WALL-E. Enabling technology means we are enabled to work less, not check our phones more. I don’t want to watch more television because technology makes it easier and then I get chubby. I want technology to help me find better shows that are more engaging and interesting to me and then have more time for disc golf (and lose more weight).

Here's the thing: It never helps to work more. Technology helps us work better. In terms of workforce productivity, we need to figure out how to get more done in less time — and this applies to every job and every person. It crosses the political divide. It's a puzzle piece that fits every puzzle.

Another good example of this is a service like Uber. It’s really an enabling technology. With a few swipes on your phone, you can arrange to be picked up and dropped off at your next meeting. How did this used to work? If you’ve ever been to the CES trade show in Las Vegas, you know: It means waiting forever in a taxi line. The truth is, waiting in line is work. For me, any delays waiting for something when I am trying to find new gadgets, meet people, and discuss ideas is work. It doesn't matter if you are flipping houses or flipping burgers, technology should help you do what you love faster and easier. (As a side point, Uber is also helping people generate income.)

What I’m hoping we can figure out as a society is this issue of dumb work. Waiting in line for a taxi is dumb. Typing up a transcript after a meeting is dumb if you can just record it with Google Voice and pay someone who is really good at typing up transcripts to do it instead. (For the record, I did this probably 20 times in the last two months.)

The nirvana state for any job is only doing the things that match perfectly with your skills and experience. If you are amazingly good at sales, technology should enable you to sell more and help you outsource the things that slow you down (and therefore force you to work more). The answer is not "work more" as a way to help the economy. The answer is to work smarter. And, this answer will help the economy grow stronger.

Agree? Disagree? Post in comments.

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