Are you making progress or merely being busy?

When the industrial revolution came, it took productivity really seriously. We organized work around machines and not people.

People needed to keep the pace of the machine, and not the other way around.

How many items did you assemble today? How many defects did you create?

And like Groundhog Day, the days repeated themselves. The same item, over and over. Fold, drill, screw, paint, wrap, ship, and again.

The task was clear. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

A few decades later, services job developed. Some of them were consisting of blunt repetitive tasks.

But at each level of the development of the company, the real value created comes from the tasks which are not yet defined.

Creative work is not about doing repetitively something you’ve been doing many time over, and hoping that it becomes better.

It’s about betting on the future. Taking a chance to try new things. You won’t know how long it takes and what will be the outcome until you do it.

The difficulty is that for most of us working in an office, our job does not consist 100% of creative work, or 100% of repetitive work.

The line is blurry. It’s not repetitive, but not completely creative / innovative.

And you can decide how you do it. Since it was never done before exactly in this way, you don’t know exactly how long it will take.

When you sum up all your task, do they exactly amount to the working hours? Probably not. One day it will be 5 hours, the other 12 hours.

The working hours were set to keep track of the productivity of the worker assembling the identical item.

The day you have for about 5 hours of work, you will take the whole working time to do it. The other day, you have that concert you promised to go to your friend. And somehow, you manage to achieve the 12 hours tasks in the 8 hours you had.

That, is called the Parkinson’s Law. A task will use the time that is available to be completed. Not more, not less.

Now, since we have the same working hours, and different amount of tasks, the tendency will be to create ourselves new tasks to fill-up our time.

But will these tasks help you move the needle in the right direction? Are they helping you moving forward towards your objectives?

That, is the challenge of 100% of the office workers.

The questions are :

  • Are you filling-up your time with tasks, to be busy, or are you creating value that will help you achieve your goal?
  • Do you really need to do that task?
  • Have you set yourself any specific goal to reach in the first place? What are you actually trying to achieve here? Do you have a timeline in place?

The clarity we get from having a long term perspective is a bliss. But it hard. It is unnatural. Humans beings are not wired to think long term.

It requires to review the progress towards our objective every day, every week, every month, every year.

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