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Busyness Blog

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

Types of Work

One efficient way to view work is to consider that there are two types of work—good work and busy work.

Good Work

Good work—which is also often referred to as productive work, smart work, or real work—is defined as work that makes the world “better.”’   It is the ongoing exertion of cognitive, creative, and physical functions in pursuit of a world that not only makes room for such things but supports others in doing good work, too.

Good work is applying your affection, intellect, and specific ‘genius’ to people and places you depend on and that depend on you.

Good work is about bringing to bear your affection, passion, intellect, and collective experience on things worth doing on a scale that honors the complexity of the task.  To use your hands–and the hands of your mind–to craft deeply personal work that couldn’t possibly be done by anyone else.

Examples of good work are:

  • helping people
  • exercising
  • creating
  • learning
  • collaborating
  • contributing
  • connecting with the right people for you
  • spending time with people you love

Busy Work

Busy work is everything that is not “good work.”

Busy work is the enemy of “good work.”  It is what you do when you are afraid of your good work.  It is what you do when you are bored with your good work, or you don’t know what your good work is.

Examples of busy work are:

  • checking email every 5 minutes and first thing in the morning
  • viewing other people’s vacation photos on Facebook
  • attending meetings for stuff you don’t care about
  • organizing your desk
  • asking for more input because you are afraid that your work isn’t good enough
  • weekly reports or call reports with the sole purpose of monitoring activity
  • spending time with people you don’t like

Stop Doing Busy Work

Doing busy work is easy, enticing, and provides false rewards.  It kills your good work.  Here are four steps to stop doing busy work.

Step 1: Identifying Your Most Valuable Desired Outcome

To maximize your productivity, you need to gain clarity on what your desired outcome actually is.  What do you want to achieve?  What are you actually working towards?  If you’re not fully clear about your destination, you’ll get lost in all the possibilities and distractions along the way.

To do this, ask yourself what one thing, if achieved this week/month/quarter/year, would lead me to consider this week/month/quarter/year to be a total success?

The answer to this question is your most valuable desired outcome.

Step 2: Getting Clear On Your Most Valuable Tasks

The point here is that you identify 1–5 tasks that contribute the most to the achievement of your goal.  These tasks are absolutely mission-critical to achieving your most valuable desired outcome.

Step 3: Identify All Your ‘Busy Work’ Activities

Busy work tasks consume your valuable limited resources such as time and energy.  They either only contribute to achieving insignificant metrics (such as likes, retweets, and comments) or only lead to some progress towards your desired outcome.  These tasks aren’t worthy of the majority of your time and energy.

Eliminate or outsource these tasks to someone else.  You need to protect your time like you’d protect your family or your life savings.

Step 4: Now Do It

Change only happens when you execute.

The Bible

As Believers, we cannot allow ourselves to be swept away in the undercurrent of the cultural stopwatch.  Romans 12:2 says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Bible places high value on rest and peaceful living.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He occasionally escaped the crowds’ busyness to renew His strength.

Mark 6:31 says,

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to hear God’s still, quiet voice over the roar of the 21st-century crowds, so, like Jesus, we must make time to rest and hear from our Lord.

When confronted with the temptation to pursue busy work instead of good work, take that moment to be quiet.  Allow the Lord to settle your soul and allow you to refocus on doing good work.