Curb the Busyness of Business

Curb the Busyness of Business

Work is a big part of life. Most people spend more time working than doing anything else. Whether you work for a big company, small business or work from home (or anywhere), you are likely caught up in the busyness of business.

Do you do more busy work than good work? If you fill up 8 or 9 (or more) hours of your life each day with work, but don’t do anything that really matters, who cares?

There is always work to do. Everyone is looking for more hours in the day and days in the week to get more work done. The easy tasks and mind numbing chores are always done first so there is some sense of accomplishment by noon. Then after a quick bite, usually in a car or behind a desk, the afternoon slump sets in and creative work is put on hold again. By the early evening, there is nothing left for good work or good people. People and families suffer and amazing ideas never see the light of day.

This will only change by putting good work first. The first step to curb the busyness of business is to identify the difference between good work and busy work.

Good work

  • helping people
  • exercising
  • sharing good ideas
  • creating
  • learning
  • shipping
  • collaborating
  • contributing
  • connecting with the right people for you
  • spending time with people you love

Busy work

  • checking email every 5 minutes and first thing in the morning
  • viewing other people’s vacation photos on Facebook
  • attending meetings for things you don’t care about
  • organizing your desk
  • asking for more input because you are afraid that your work isn’t good enough
  • sitting on the board because it looks good on your resume
  • connecting with all the people
  • weekly reports or call reports with the sole purpose of monitoring activity
  • reactionary workflow
  • spending time with people you don’t like

Your list of busy work vs. good work might be different depending on what you do for work or how you spend your time. You can find busy work and good work in business and in your everyday life.

Why busy work?

Busy work is what you do when you are afraid of your good work.

Busy work is what you do when you are bored with your good work.

Busy work is what you do when you don’t know what your good work is.

If you love your job but hate the nonsense  …

If you work for someone else, you may have less control in terms of how you spend your day, but with awareness and action there is still hope for good work.

Nonsense is the corporate culture, the politics of doing business. Gossip and incessant complaining is nonsense. Responding to interoffice email/google chat/Skype IM and text messages all day long is nonsense. And let’s not leave out weekly meetings with no agenda, weekly reports that are often unread and not particularly useful and competition that kills collaboration. That’s all nonsense too.

The most important thing to know is that you have choices. If you love what you do, but not who you do it for or with, you can do it somewhere else. That is a sure-fire way to leave what or who you don’t like behind. There is no guarantee that you won’t experience new things that you don’t like, but often, you have nothing to lose. Your time is precious. It’s time to love it or leave it.

If you aren’t quite ready to leave, there may be things you can do to make your days more enjoyable. After all, if you are making money doing what you love, a little extra effort to shift attitudes and environment will be worth the investment.

You will have to gently educate your employees, employers and co-workers that there is a difference between good work and busy work. Lead by example for the most dramatic results.

If you hate your job and want to do what you were meant to do or don’t know exactly what you want to do …

Many of my clients fall into this category and there are two things that I tell all of them.

1. It is possible.
2. You are good enough.

If you knew those two things were true, would you get started? Let’s assume that they are true (because they are). You can start your new business before you quit your job. In most cases, you can start earning money from your new business before you quit your job.

If you’ve thought about doing something new, but words and phrases like: job security, bad economy, uncertainty, and fear of failure keep you holding onto the status quo, think about words and phrases like: do what you love, meaningful work, no more miserable Mondays and anything is possible.

You don’t have to know it all to get started, because until you get started, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Busyness gets in the way of good work and in the way of living a full life. When you do work your love, you’ll notice that you naturally do less busy work. You look forward to the good work, even when it is challenging.

Where you work isn’t any better or worse than where I work, unless you are uninspired, unhappy and wishing you could do something different.

If you are too busy to differentiate the busy work from the good work, just remember that busy work comes from your to-do list and good work comes from your heart.

What small change can you make today to curb the busyness of your life and business?



  1. says

    Great article! A simple thing I do when I’m working is have one program open at a time (and all programs I use have notifications of any kind turned OFF). That way if I’m working on something, I’m focused on it — no beeps, popups, bounces, alerts, etc.

  2. says

    Great article and I get your point entirely. Many stay busy at busy and avoid important because it is easier.
    One comment about avoiding the boring or the routine – the trash still needs taken out. To think we are too good to take the mundane along with the brilliant is to negate true life. Day to day business is a part of life, or to put it another way the weeds form the compost for the flowers.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  3. says

    Oh, Courtney. Your list of busy work seems like a lot of ‘shoulds’ – I should go to this meeting because…and, for me, that often leads to stress. When I take care of the Good Work list items – exercise, learning, creating, I am less likely to mind the day to day business that Dan mentions. I can use those tasks as a form of meditation to clear my head and get back to the Good Work. Thanks for writing.

  4. says

    I resonate with this message, Courtney. Especially, “Busy work is what you do when you are afraid of your good work.” And, sometimes you don’t even realize it!

  5. says

    Yes, yes, yes! I must say that having to “look busy” all the time was one of the most unproductive things about being employed. My end came when I had a boss who wanted me to be at my desk from 8-5 every day so he could be satisfied that I was working. Never mind the fact that the there were soooo many more efficient ways to actually get the work done! This may sound counter-intuitive, but when your job is to brainstorm with musicians to help them come up with new and exciting classes to offer to the public, it’s much more effective to simply “hang out” and chat about what musical things they’re really excited about than it is to spend hours on the phone hounding them over which classes they’d like to offer for the upcoming quarter.

    Now that I “work” for myself (“work” in quotes because it doesn’t really feel like work anymore) I get to simply cut to the chase and do the stuff that matters, is fun and creates results. No more reports or political BS!

    BTW – are you serious that “shipping” is something you consider to be “good work?” I mean, if you’re in the business of selling things it is a necessary evil, but back in my online bookseller days fulfilling shipping orders was something I did as a brainless activity to start each day before I was fully conscious!

    • Courtney Carver says

      by shipping, I meant sending your ideas/business/work into the world and not actually putting something in the mail. Sorry, should have clarified!

  6. says

    I chose to give up office work in favour of being a self-employed massage therapist in 2011. Business has built up slowly and I now don’t have cash to splurge on shopping in lunch breaks and weekends like I used to. THe good news is that I don’t really need to because now my to do list is full of things that I know will improve my wellbeing, outlook, living/working environment and relationships with those I love! I decided not to be busy and try and do everything. Some people think I’m lazy because I think multi-tasking is ineffective. Some people thrive on it, but I know I do not. I need time for reflection and now I have it! Thanks for this lovely article, may it change many people’s lives :)

    • says

      Sha Sha, your comment resonnated with me. I too left the “glamour” of data/statistical office work to return to school. I wanted to be able to offer massage therapist, in conjunction with me healing touch/ quantum touch.
      I love what I do and do what I love now…
      and I don’t need “retail” therapy to help me cope with life’s demands.
      I hear a totally different drum and wake up grateful every morning, glad I have the opportunity to work with clients and those beginning their healing journey.
      My best to you!

  7. says

    Courtney, All I can say is…Amen.

    It IS possible, and we ARE good enough. WE can come up with new ideas ourselves. I love my job, and hate the nonsense….so I am going out in the world and doing it myself. It is sad that jobs “morph” into drags. I am counting down the days until I can utilize every hour of my life to its fullest. Can’t wait!!