Busy work is a thief that steals your productivity without your knowledge. You get to the end of your day and you haven’t made any real progress on your goals. Maybe you re-organized your desk or updated your blog. But you haven’t done anything to will truly help you build your business.

“I believe busy work is the product of a dated culture that based performance on how much time you spent at work rather than the quality of that work.” – Shane Green, President of SGEi.

Busy Work = Urgent

The important thing to understand about busy work is that feels urgent. However, busy work never adds value to your business. An example of busy work would be checking your social media accounts the second your phone dings. Doing this makes you feel productive even though you aren’t.

In order to say no to busy work, you have to be willing to say ‘no’ to seemingly urgent tasks. For example, if you’re working on a client project and you get a message that it’s time to update your website software, then it’s easy to get off track. Before you know it, your day is over and the client project is still waiting for you.

Busy Work = Procrastination

For many people, busy work is a form of procrastination. It might not look like procrastination. In fact, you may tell yourself that before you start on a project, you just need to make a giant to do list and organize your resources.

If you want to say no to busy work, you have to understand that it causes you to make a lot of plans. But it’s the follow through that makes the difference. It might be helpful to say, “Before I begin on this project, I’m going to take 10 minutes to make an outline”. When the ten minutes are up, start working even if your outline isn’t completed yet.

Busy Work = Overwhelm

Busy work frequently masks overwhelm. Maybe you’re overwhelmed at the thought of learning new software or creating an e-course. So you spend most of your time doing less important tasks instead of focusing on what’s going to grow your business.

If you find that you’re using busy work to avoid overwhelming projects, try to sit down and pick a deadline for just one task. You might say, “By [your date], I will hire a virtual assistant that can install this software and teach me how to use it”.

In order to keep busy work from stealing your productivity, you have to understand what it is. Even more importantly, you need to know why you’re doing this busy work, so you can tackle the real root of the problem.

Some tips to reduce busy work:

  1. Begin each day with a to-do list.
  2. Determine how you’ll prioritize your list and the goals each one represents.
  3. Make your to-do lists actionable. Start your task titles with action words such as “write,” “optimize,” “integrate” or “create” to give you an overview of what you need to do to complete the list.
  4. Use technology to track progress.
  5. Step back and refocus on the goals.
  6. Delegate, assign or ask for help.

Clearly defined goals make it much easier to focus on what’s really important and determine which tasks don’t work toward those goals. This will help reduce the busy work associated with undefined goals.