We are busy people. Ask anyone you know how they’re doing and you will most likely to get the response: “busy”. There is not one moment throughout the day where we are not busy doing something. Busy going from one meeting to the next, busy checking emails, posting on social media, filling in spreadsheets, writing down ideas, checking websites, reading articles, checking LinkedIn, seeing what super star so-and-so is up to, and so on and so on. Maybe somewhere in there we might squeeze in an actual real meaningful work that makes a difference but 90% of our time is spent doing “busy” work.
What is busy work? Busy work is anything you do that gives you a false sense of being productive.
Your brain is actively working but it is running on autopilot because busy work does not require us to use the part of the brain responsible for creative thinking and problem solving. Busy work fills up idle time and makes us feel like we’re doing something worthwhile but at the end of the day, doesn’t get you closer to your dreams.
Busy work can feel like real work but don’t be fooled, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, we oftentimes convince ourselves that updating our website, marketing on Facebook, getting business cards, planning for a project or idea without actually putting ourselves out there, are the things that will help us accomplish our goals.
What I’m finding is that busy work is a haven for our comfort zone. It feeds our sense of accomplishment while keep us safe from the tough work of following our dreams. Busy work keeps us locked in our fears under disguise. Busy work keeps us behind our computers instead of out there meeting people and spreading our ideas. Busy work keeps us glued to our inbox instead of writing the first chapter of our book idea. Busy work can even lead us to enroll in an 18-month MBA program instead of starting that new business today.
If you suspect you’ve gotten caught up in busy work, don’t worry you’re not alone. Most of us fall into this trap without even realizing it. I, myself at times have done a good job of spending longer than I need to on a less than important task. Usually when this happens and I check in with myself, I learn that it is because I am avoiding doing the thing that scares me or because somehow I think I am not doing “enough”.
If you can do just one single, life-altering, change-the-game, out-of-the-box, expand-your-comfort-zone type of thing that nudges your business or career even the tiniest bit forward, that is all you need.
Here’s how you can avoid the trap of busy work through these 3 questions:
- Is what I am doing the best use of my time right now?
- By doing this task, what real meaningful work is not getting done?
- Would doing this task really matter a week/month/year from now?
Ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers. Be careful as you answer because the mind is clever and can create any excuse that sounds legitimate to keep you in the comfort of busy work.
Now go out there and do the real work, the work that feels tough and scary but at the end of the day pushes you closer to your dreams. When you look back, you will be grateful for having spent your time moving mountains than checking email.
Keep me posted on how it goes.