Business Tips

How To Avoid Busy Work & Be Truly Productive

busy work
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Do you know this feeling when you realize you have been doing busy work the whole week and AGAIN, didn’t get these important to-dos ticked off, and didn’t end up moving ahead on your big projects?

There is a clear difference between being busy and being productive, right? One doesn’t necess­arily equal the other…

So if you feel like this sometimes and you want to avoid busy work and get truly productive, then this blog post is PERFECT for you.

Let’s dive into 6 mistakes you’re probably making, that keep you busy instead of productive in your business.

Related Reads:

busy work

Mistake #1: You don’t question and review your to-do list

Don’t be afraid to question your to-do list.

Are all of these tasks actually impactful, essential, and urgent? Do I really need to do them? Do I really need to do them now? And does it have to be me or can someone else do it?

Try to slim your to-do list down by:

  • Deleting tasks that aren’t necessary or important anymore
  • Automating as many tasks as possible
  • Delegating and outsourcing tasks that take up too much time or you simply don’t enjoy doing
  • Postponing the tasks that aren’t urgent

So you end up with a to-do list that you know contains only essential and urgent tasks.

Mistake #2: You start off your day with the easiest task instead of the most important one

I’m definitely guilty to this one!

When you sit down to start off your workday, it might be tempting to start with the easiest tasks and get these checked off quickly, so you feel this sense of accomplishment.

However, almost always these tiny to-do’s end up taking way more time than you anticipated, and end up stealing time from other to-do’s that are way more important and impactful.

So, what can you do to fix this?

Choose one project that will have a big impact on your business and will move the needle forward, break the project down into manageable and actionable steps and work on these every single day first thing when you start your working day.

If you get these done, even though you don’t get done your whole to-do list, at least you know that you moved the needle ahead. Otherwise, you will just get a bunch of tiny to-dos done that don’t make much difference at the end of the day.

What I like to do with these tiny to-do’s is either batch them together in an hour or 2-hour session once a week, so I get them all done at once and they don’t distract me every day. Or, I will quickly get these done in these ‘gap moments’ (for example when you got somewhere too early, or you have a 10-minute gap somewhere where you would normally just take your phone and do mindless things).

Mistake #3: You’re doing busy work by multi-tasking

If you’re half watching TV and half getting work done, you are not fully getting rest, and also not being very focused either. So, that is inefficient, right?

Try to work with Pomodoro’s, so that you know exactly when you have to be fully focused on a task and when it’s time for a break. In this way, you will be far more productive and get things done double as fast as you would if you’re constantly getting distracted.

The same counts for doing several tasks at the same time… Even though it might seem that you’re more productive since you are able to cross multiple things off your list at once, you are definitely not. Every time you switch tasks, your brain needs to reset and refocus, so not only is multi-tasking way more exhausting, but it will also cost you way more time to get the same amount of to-do’s done than you would when you would do them separately.

busy work

Mistake #4: Your mailbox eats away your time and creates busy work

Leave your mailbox closed when you’re focused on other tasks and turn off all notifications.

Assign a dedicated 30 min timeframe every day where you open your mailbox and you efficiently work through your emails.

The key is to not just open an email, read and leave it in your mailbox, but to always directly take adequate action. For me, there are 4 options:

  • The first one is deleting when you don’t need the email and it doesn’t require any action
  • The second is archiving in the right folder if you might need this information later, but it doesn’t require any action from your side
  • The third one is taking action, so you can delete or archive the email after
  • The last one (that I won’t use as sparely as possible) is the kind of email that you eventually need to take action on, but right now you can’t because something is still pending… So in that case, you can either use a service like Boomerang to send this same email back to you when it’s time to take action or you save it in a folder where you save all your ‘future to-dos’, I like to review this folder every week to make sure it doesn’t pile up.

Mistake #5: You don’t protect your working time enough

Your working time should be sacred and non-negotiable.

So set office hours for your business and follow these religiously.

Be very careful that you don’t let other people, requests, or other non work-related to-do’s come in between you and your working time, except when it’s totally unavoidable.

When your kid is sick, you need to go to an important doctor’s appointment or there is an emergency, then, of course, it’s necessary to prioritize these things.

But try to protect your working time as much as possible, because when you don’t take your business seriously, nobody will.

Mistake #6: You let overwhelm or perfectionism kill your productivity

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and the project you need to work on seems like Mount Everest, just take a deep breath, start with the first tiny step of this big project, set a Pomodoro timer, and just start without overthinking it. You will notice that once you get started, it almost always isn’t as bad as you imagined it in your head.

Also, done is better than perfect.

So, when you notice that your perfectionism kicks in and you feel this compulsive drive to keep changing little details (even though you know deep down it is good enough), just stop for a moment and without judging yourself, actively convince yourself it is good enough and that it is time to let go and move to the next task.

busy work

Related Reads:

Let’s Chat!

What do you do to avoid busy work and be truly productive? Let me know in the comments down below!

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  1. Anaiah says:

    I make every single one of those mistakes, haha! Thank you for the helpful reminders and tips to stay focused and on track.

  2. Amara Uche says:

    I’ve definitely struggled with all of these mistakes but definitely working through them. The to-do list is great but as you say if you don’t review it regularly, you could end up doing work that’s not necessary.

  3. Evie says:

    So eye opening. Protecting my work time and email kill my time. Just like the mail, I need to turn email into a one and done.

  4. Jana says:

    These are wonderful tips! I really love the reminder that our working time should be sacred and non-negotiable. YES! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. Russell says:

    I find it really difficult not to click on an email when it arrives and that is a distraction I could do without. I seem to jump about from one thing to another and definitely need to focus more on the important tasks rather than the easier ones.

  6. Oh wow. Am I ever guilty of most of these mistakes! Busy work. Big time.
    Thanks for the kick in the butt to make me realize I am procrastinating more than I think!

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