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Don’t Confuse Being Busy With Doing Work

27th May 2019

It’s entirely possible that you aren’t doing much, if any, REAL work.

I’m talking about the kind of work that pushed your business forward and helps you make the change you want to make in the world. Whether you’re a coach, an salaried worker or a freelancer operating in your own way, its really important to keep in mind what is the important (often not glamorous) work that will make a difference.

Picture a day in the life of an office worker. They come to work in the morning and open their email, where they see messages asking for reports to be sent, details of meetings and agendas to be set, and conferences to be booked. In a day like that, the amount of actual work getting done is minimal, and what is being done instead is administration.

Being “busy” doesn’t actually mean that a lot of important work is getting done. You can be busy writing down minutes from a meeting that nobody will ever read. You could be busy outlining an agenda for a meeting, picking the right font and organising it so that it looks very pretty and clear, but then people at the meeting barely use it at all and it could have done just as well with 5 bullet points on the team Slack channel. You can be busy filing paperwork that confirms to the higher-ups that you’ve been doing your job.

“Effective” and “Busy” are not the same thing. They aren’t even related. Sometimes you need to be busy in order to get your work done on time, but chances are you do a lot of busy work and not as much effective work as you need to.

Some tips on dealing with this:

One, write down what you need to do in the morning, and once you have finished everything figure out what the number one task that will help your work improve and move forward should be. Highlight it and do that task first.

Separate your creative and difficult work time from your administrative time.  I’ve found that not replying to any email before 12pm has really helped me to use my morning energy (I’m a morning person and I get a lot more done before midday than after) to actually move the needle, instead of burning that energy on annoying admin tasks like scheduling.

Be okay with letting the unimportant tasks not get done. I was asked by one of the schools I used to teach at to write down exactly what I was doing in my classes every day in a separate book to help the office staff to have notes in case any parents asked what happened. This would be an extra 10 minutes of energy spent after teaching my class every day to do a pointless task that I assumed would never be used, so I just didn’t do it. By doing this I saved myself an hour per week and a lot of energy.

Nobody ever asked me about the reports until about halfway through the year when someone noticed I hadn’t been filling them out. When they asked me why and tried to reprimand me I asked them whether it was really that useful if nobody noticed that I hadn’t been doing it for half a year. They couldn’t think of a response other than “it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

In my view when you focus even a little effort on doing the most effective and important parts of your job, and reduce the amount of time you spend looking busy, you will have a lot more time to build your business, your skills or even take time off to enjoy your life.

Even better, you won’t be constantly telling your friends and family that you’re “busy”, and that is a big win.



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