Being busy the right way
Have you ever seen someone being busy and thought, “Wow?” Were you impressed in any way? We’re usually sold this idea that being busy is a virtue, that it means hard work, and wealth. The more you run around working without time for anything the better. But is that true?
If you are involved in a business in any way, you are going to be busy. After all, you have to work, and working makes you busy. But not everything that makes you busy while working is important. Sometimes, it’s simply stressful, unproductive, and pointless.
That said, I’d like to highlight some cases of busy that are downright negative and provide some ideas that might help instead.
Being busy, but not being productive
Simply put, you can be very busy but unproductive at the same time. It may be a bit shocking because it goes against the “hard work = results” logic. So one may think, “Wait, if I am busy, working a lot, how can I not see results?” Well, won’t be as great as they could be.
It’s worth saying what “productivity” really means, since the concept is so relevant. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, productive is what’s “effective in bringing about”.
Now you will define what you want to bring about because it may go beyond money depending on your entrepreneurial mission. You need to be productive in your own terms. You should be busy as a result of getting things done with less effort.
Henry Ford is arguably the best example of someone who boosted productivity without increasing work. Ford’s greatest revolution wasn’t making cars available at a lower price, but the way he transformed his production process for maximum productivity.
Ford knew that instead of simply busying himself making good cars, he could focus on creating a way to speed the whole process up. So instead of working more hours to produce more cars, workers would produce more cars in the same number of hours. They would definitely have been much busier trying to increase the output the hard way, but being busy was never his goal; being productive was.
Besides building strategies specific to your business such as that (as they will depend on what you set out to do), there are many other universal ways to boost productivity—and be less busy doing more.
The first one is actually changing our mindset that being busy is good. It’s just a consequence of work, and not a virtue. By fixing this you will feel better about working better, not working a lot.
Besides that, always investigate the processes involved in your work to find which ones actually get things done. Try and examine new ways of doing everything. Ask yourself, “What have I achieved this past week?” to see how productive you are actually being. Results don’t lie, they are always going to show you if you’re making progress.
If you are making progress, then ask, “Which particular actions helped me achieve it?” Examine everything, and whatever didn’t help much should go. If you’re not making much progress, then it’s time to examine even harder.
Multitasking is another terrible way to be busy. You don’t concentrate well, so you underperform in everything. Even in our personal lives multitasking can hurt. If you spend time with your child while checking the phone and/or trying to work, for instance, you won’t enjoy the moment, and the work will be low quality.
Multitasking may happen at times, but it can’t become a routine. Rather, establish your priorities and focus on them; make your time count. That means saying “no” to many other things, so you can channel your time and energy into one (essential) activity at a time.
Being busy with things that don’t lead to growth
I used to read quotes like, “To be successful you have to do what 99% of the people are not willing to do” and be a bit confused. I thought they referred to the unlikeable but necessary parts of work, such as cleaning, or stressful jobs.
Now I realize that is not the case. The things most people aren’t willing to do are the ones they either don’t know or are afraid of. Things that involve leaving the comfort zone. These things bring growth.
Growth involves marketing, prospecting, reaching out to people, thinking about the right partnerships, creating a lead generation system, etc. It’s scary to face those challenges, that’s why we tend to solve things the hard way. Still, focusing on growth can be the difference between a common camera and a GoPro.
Part of GoPro’s success as a brand lies in their great strategy to make their product relevant. They create and promote content that is both compelling and relatable (from their target audience’s point of view).
Besides posting interesting content themselves, they have created a community around their product, which they encourage to post films and photos as well. They are constantly reaching out to people, and the result is a highly engaged community that always grows and causes the brand to grow as a result.
Naturally, part of growth is also making sure the product/service you deliver is top-notch, since that’s how you ensure clients’ satisfaction. If, for example, you are in the restaurant business, a delicious food people won’t forget is the pillar to make sure prospecting and marketing don’t fail due to low customer retention.
Because product/service improvement, marketing, planning, and other growth-related activities are so important, they should have the prime of your energy. Being busy with other things is a less than good use of your time.
Being busy with things other people could do (better)
You might ask, “So who is going to do the jobs I ‘shouldn’t’ do while I focus on the juicy part of the work?” Other professionals. That is why outsourcing is sometimes crucial.
It may also be the case that you simply aren’t good at doing what brings business growth. Perhaps you tried leaving your comfort zone to try prospecting and the other jobs we mentioned that bring growth, but things didn’t work out so well. That’s possible.
Whether you want to have more time for the most important jobs or can’t perform some essential tasks very well, you are going to need help. Regardless of your reason, finding a partner or outsourcing services can be lifesaving.
Besides saving time and effort, having help is actually more cost-efficient in the end. Paying people to help you is an investment, because that will make sure that part of the job is well done while you focus on what you do best.
Trying to do all the work obviously means you are overworking. Also, having help on them is clearly better to increase results and decrease stress. You may be too busy doing things you don’t need to. They need to be done, of course, but maybe not by you. That’s when other capable people come into play.
Apple, one of the greatest examples of entrepreneurial success ever, illustrates that perfectly. Apple was never a one-man business. The two men behind the brand, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, had different sets of skill that when combined resulted in stellar success.
Wozniak was the engineering genius who could create groundbreaking machines and wanted to make them more accessible, but he didn’t have what it takes to propel a business into commercial success. Jobs did. He was the business visionary, the one who made entrepreneurial brilliance look easy, but couldn’t make those computers. Individually, they wouldn’t have achieved much. Together, they were Apple.
Apple would never have been what it now is if Jobs had focused on learning code, and Wozniak on selling machines. They would both have overworked and underperformed. We can learn from that division and apply it to our own journey, even if at a smaller scale: outsourcing in important areas we are weaker at.
Instead of trying to fix your weaknesses, you should emphasize your strengths, that way you will be busy making actual progress, and not simply making an effort. The parts of the business you are weaker at can (and should) be done by other people.
It’s always good to remember the hard work won’t disappear with these ideas. It will simply be channeled to what matters most. That way, you will be able to say you’re busy going forward.