Stop the Busy Work


“Lost time is not found again.” 

Bob Dylan

We often have things we really, really want to do, yet aren’t quite sure how we’re going to fit them into our day. 

And no wonder! 

We have jobs, families, hobbies, friends, and activities – all of which take up our time. 

Most of us have been taught that if we only worked a little harder, we’d have what we wanted. 

We’d earn more money, we’d be successful, we’d get that next promotion. If we only did a little more. After all, when we’re frantically busy, doesn’t that mean we’re moving ahead? 

However, do you spend the majority of your work day putting out fires (ever wonder where the term ‘burnout’ came from?) and simply handling all the stuff that shows up every day? 

You may spend very little time on the things that are most important to you – those things that make a huge difference in the quality of your work and your life. 

I often encourage my clients to do LESS, rather than continue to take on more and more and wear themselves out. Instead, we look at ways the client can focus on activities that really matter – in payoff, results, enjoyment, and value. 

Often, when a client becomes aware of how many ‘time-spending’ activities are not actually adding much value, it’s easier to let these activities go, delegate them, or change how they’re handled. 

I encourage you to take a look at how you’re investing your time – and spend it where it matters to you! 

For one week, keep a log of everything you do at work. To make it easy on yourself (again, I’m big on keeping things simple!), keep your log at your desk and track as you go, and include EVERYTHING that takes longer than 5 minutes. 

At the end of the week, create a list of at least 50 items that take up your time. You can definitely do this! Then add up how much time you spend on each item…you may be surprised. 

Some items on your list might include: 

- meeting with clients

- marketing

- writing proposals

- reading e-mail

- responding to e-mail

- sitting in meetings

- listening to co-workers’ problems

- talking on the phone

- looking for items you haven’t filed

- handling paperwork

- gossiping

- attending training that doesn’t add value

- waiting for people who are late

- responding to customer complaints

- surfing the internet

- worrying

Once you’ve created your list, choose three items that give you the most payoff – the most value for your time. Choose items that you enjoy, that you’re great at, and that add a lot of value to your career. 

Determine the percentage of time spent on these activities compared to all the other activities. 

For most people, it usually turns out that they spend about 80% of their time on activities that are really not adding much value, and only 20% of their time on the things that really matter. 

Imagine how much different your career (and your life) would be if you focused 80% of your time on the activities that bring you the highest results! 

Now, come up with three ways you will reduce the percentage of time you spend on low-payoff activities, and do them!