How to eliminate the busy work
Are you stuck? Maybe it’s because you are focusing your brainpower and energy on busy work. Sure it keeps you just that – “busy” – but it doesn’t have value in and of itself and it doesn't produce.
In the end, you don't have much to show except some check marks next to your items and your to do list. Our brain makes a beeline to the busywork because busy work aligns with the motivational triad of the brain -your brain's basic job is to do three things.
- Avoid pain
- To seek pleasure
- To be efficient and conserve energy
Busywork is definitely a friend of the motivational triad, because it's not very painful. It may not seek pleasure, but the pleasure comes in checking the box and it allows you to conserve energy for later. Have you ever said that you're “a list person?” I often hear, “I really like checking things off.” And most people tackle the easy things first. That's when I ask them, “of all the tasks on the list, which do you do first?” Most of the time I’ll hear “Oh, I just check off the things that are kind of quick.”
Why? Why are you checking the things that are quick? It’s really because they’re easy. And that checkmark gives us a feeling that we all want. But in and of itself, most of those things on your list are busy work and don’t have much value.
So, what do we do about that? How do we get out of that busywork? Well, one of the tools that I use with my clients often is called the Eisenhower Matrix. (I talk about the Eisenhower Matrix in an earlier blog post). But I want you to think about this: Everything on your to do list is really either busywork, project work, or work that can be eliminated or delegated.
The Eisenhower Matrix breaks it up into four boxes: to do, to plan, to delegate and to eliminate, but I like to call them the busy Workbox, the project box, the delegate box and the eliminate box. Eisenhower labeled things as either important or not important. Busy work: it's important that it gets done but the inherent value of it is low. It does not move the needle like the project work in the schedule/plan box. Things that need to be scheduled and plan take some thought, then some focus. Our brain does not want to do that because it’s not easy and comfortable.
But here’s the trick: Break up that schedule/plan/project work, which you have to focus on, into bite sized pieces. The pieces in and of themselves might not have any value and they could be labeled as busy work. And..when they are labeled as busy work, you actually get it done! I like to say that if you can break any project into ten parts without the parts being attached to each other, they become valuable when you get the project done and put all the parts together. Our brain gets stuck tackling all these projects. Sometimes we never even get to them. But if you can change the project into ten pieces of busywork, it's golden!
There's another category of work or action that I want to mention. Oftentimes, I have clients tell me on their initial intake forms when we start coaching that they have read “all the books.” They have listened to all the gurus. They have asked for advice from 20 different people, but they just can't seem to make headway or get anything done that will bring them more money, more clients, more time, more success.
They just don't know.
Then they tell me that they're not sure.
They never have enough time to get anything done.
They think they might need more knowledge in order to make money, have more clients, have more success.
Passive vs. Massive Action
Here’s what the problem is: These people are stuck in passive action. They are not taking what I like to call massive action. What does passive action look like? It looks like registering for another course that you don’t do. It looks like talking to one hundred people about how they think they should do something. It looks like spending ten hours trying to figure out MailChimp or even how to manage team members without hurting their feelings. But it can also look like setting up the appointment or responding to the email that doesn't require a response. And it looks like scrolling.
It looks like not having the hard, uncomfortable conversations. It looks like not making the offer, not talking about money, not writing the proposal. It looks like procrastinating on all the money-making or value-producing activities. It's kind of like when your car is in neutral, it can move, but not with force and or at a high speed. It’s not going anywhere.
Now, the opposite of this passive action is doing the hard, doing the uncomfortable, the not-so-efficient, but money-making activities for moving the needle. This is when the car is moving, at least at the speed limit, if not above. This is massive action. This is what gives you traction and the success you're looking for.
I have clients tell me that they are taking all this action but they're getting nowhere because…they haven't figured out that thoughts create feelings that drive action, both passive and massive action. Once you understand this, then it's time to really commit to taking the massive action, to really commit to the ongoing action. Massive action is taking action until you get the result you want.
Busy work does not get you the result you want. Passive action does not get you the result you want. Massive action does. Focus work does. So when someone says to me, “I'm taking massive action on this” I’ll reply “well, you haven't taken enough massive action if you haven’t gotten the result you want.” Once you get the result you want, that is taking massive action and that can include the hard and uncomfortable things.
When you set a goal and you commit to a certain result, you're going to hit obstacles. Most of us turn around after the first bump and think that we need to stop. “Forget it. I'm not doing this anymore.” You say “it isn't working.” But you can anticipate all the obstacles ahead of time. You must be willing to anticipate those obstacles and be willing to fail and fail and fail again; then to stop and regroup. Do it wrong and try again. Get a result you didn't expect and try again. That’s massive action. And, it’s very rare.
Most of us take action once and then we give up. We try a diet, we try doing a cartwheel, we try yoga. We try to get in our eight glasses of water a day. We try everything ONCE. It doesn't work out the way we wanted it and it doesn't give us an instant result. So, we quit. Quitting is a result we don't want. That is just taking action.
What I am inviting you to do is to take massive action and keep taking the action until you get the result you want.