Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stop the Busywork! Do something meaningful.

A facebook friend brought to my attention that there's a new book on the market--Do More Great Work by author Michael Bungay Stanier. It's about stopping the busywork and starting to do work that is fulfilling. I haven't read the book so I'm not endorsing it, just commenting on the topic.

Well busywork isn't news to me but I am glad to see that some young consultant is making a living at educating the corporate world. And hopefully succeeding at it.

When I worked in the corporate world, the more enlightened executives all knew that busywork was wasteful and annoying to boot. But we were powerless against it. The old guard believed that you had to be on your computer or Blackberry responding to email as they hit the inbox. If it was at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, even better because that meant you were really a "team player". Coming in early, working late and weekends--ooh, you must really be good. Were you wearing Armani suits and playing golf? Even better.

Of course, you would only respond to the emails of the "important people" right away. The rest who were actually trying to achieve something were best ignored, waylaid or put in their proper place by the "chain of command". Heaven forbid you actually came up with a good idea that wasn't your bosses'. Of course, all would be forgiven if you were male or a very attractive female, loved hockey and went to the "right schools".

The standard answer to the morning greeting, "How are you?" was "Busy". So some people starting asking, "How are you? Besides busy?" Hhmm, well hard to come up with a good answer. People were always in meetings (secret meetings meant you were special), and dealing with endless emails. Busywork, useless, wasteful and unfortunately, boring--unless you had a shiny new Blackberry to use conspicuously in front of your co-workers, at client functions and on the golf course.

It's hard to turn something like sewing garments and selling fabrics into busywork. I just love it and it takes a wonderful blend of planning, execution and creativity.

So my advice to any of you who are still in the corporate world is this. Don't get caught up in that game. Have the confidence to stand on your own two feet and do great work that matters to you and your job. Stop going to meetings where nothing is accomplished or intervene and make them shorter and meaningful. Refuse to answer those emails that come in at 3:00 a.m. If it's really urgent, someone will call you.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” - Steve Jobs

You won't die wishing you'd sent or answered more emails or spent more time in meetings. But you will regret not spending more time on the things you love and if it's sewing, then that would truly be a shame.

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