Activity does not always equal productivity. The rise in number of online meetings has created a unique problem. People spend all day attending back-to-back meetings. An extreme case was someone who by virtue of having to attend meetings with different teams across different time zones was getting only 3 hours of sleep per day. That’s certainly a busy lifestyle. Is your busyness leading to more productive results? No one is paid to attend meetings but meetings can be very comforting because they give the illusion of work being done.
Unfortunately, it’s not just meetings. Some people spend valuable time doing lots of tasks that keep them busy but not productive. If you have ever spent hours rearranging your desk just because you want to get it to look exactly right instead of turning on your computer and getting to work, you are guilty of this. So are you if your 5 minutes breaks regularly turn into 2 hour video game marathons.
Why do people do tasks that don’t contribute towards their productivity?
They are bad at what they do
It’s easier to do lots of low value tasks that create the illusion of work while producing limited results instead of admitting you are bad at something and need more skills. Acquiring new skills takes time and effort. If you are not willing to build your capacity to do a job properly, perhaps you are in the wrong profession.
It’s difficult to work on achieving a goal if you cannot identify the next step. A fuzzy new years’ resolution might be “Get in shape.” That’s admirable but after two weeks of waking up early in the morning for a snack instead of a workout, you are going to give up. The first step to proper planning is identifying what needs to be done now and doing it. Your goal is not to get in shape, it is to go for a 30-minute jog every morning from 5:00am to 5:30am.
Working on the wrong things
Corporate workers have job descriptions that clearly state what they are supposed to work on. They can easily identify requests that aren’t their responsibility and point you in the right direction. Your responsibilities might not be so clear cut if you don’t work in a corporate organisation. One thing you can do is sit down and make a list of the tasks you feel are best done by you. If your days are spent doing other tasks that are not on the list, it might be a sign that you are working on the wrong things. If you are able to, delegate important tasks.
If every task is important to you then no task is. There is no point saying “yes” to every request for assistance and every distraction during your work day. One of the most powerful words in productivity is “No.” Have you been accepting too many requests for help? Is your work suffering as a result? Time for a new priority shift.