Busywork and How to Survive It

Are you busy? Have you had a busy week? Do you have more to do than you’d like or that you can even handle? Why are we so busy and how can we cope with it?

busy work
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Who’s Busy?

It seems that “I’ve just been so busy” is the new, “I’m doing well, how are you?” after you ask someone how they’re doing.

What are we doing? Why are we so busy?

We spend so much time doing all these things. Is it getting us closer to where we want to be? I’m tired of constantly hearing how busy everybody is.

Granted, I come from a corporate environment where it is important to look busy. A good way to look busy is to tell everyone how busy you are.

Take busy.

Please, take it.

I’m really starting to hate busy.

Let’s look at the difference between Me Busy and They Busy.

Me Busy

First off, I’m tired of missing things because of being busy. Busywork is always for somebody else. When I’m working for myself or my family, I’m productive. I get things done. When my family works on something as a family, we knock it out of the park. A task needs doin’, and we do it.

When you’re productive, it’s deliberate. When the task is productive and deliberate, it’s joyful. Even if it’s work, it’s not work. At least it doesn’t feel like work because you’re enjoying the euphoria of being in the zone, in flow.

Just ask Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.


Busywork aka, Their Busy

Busy is what you do for someone else, what you do because you have to.

There are various degrees of “have to.” There is:

  • Have to keep your job.
  • Have to get a good review.
  • Have to please somebody
  • Have to clean up your DVR, which means watching the shows before deleting them.
  • Have to not starve
  • Have to so your kid doesn’t starve
  • Have to because your spouse is in a bad mood.
  • Have to because they need you.
  • Have to because it’s the right thing to do
  • Have to because you can’t not do it.
  • Have to because it’s the next step.

Busywork is always for someone else.

Busywork is always their plan.

“Busywork is always someone else’s plan.”

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BTW, if busywork in your corporate job has got you down, check out my 7 Days to Crushing Job Misery email course.

Busy is how your boss wants you to look so his boss will think he’s a good boss. Here’s the truth though. If your boss wants you to be busy, then she has a horrible boss. Her employees probably aren’t all the great either. How could they be? They’re wasting all their otherwise productive time being busy.

Busywork is Misery

I’ve been in a bad mood for the past couple of days. I let my job do it to me.


Because everybody is busy, and nobody is doing anything. I’m tired of hearing how busy everyone is. It doesn’t even mean anything anymore. It’s just someone trying to look or feel important.

The Sad Truth About Busywork

The busier you are, the more you’re probably doing someone else’s bidding. That makes them important, not you.

I hate that! And you know how much I hate hating things! It does depend on what degree of busy you are, but be honest with yourself. Most of what you’re busy doing doesn’t really matter. It’s not for you, and it’s not for your family.

In a recent stand-up meeting…

[special]Side note. From what I read, stand-ups are probably a great idea and very productive. All they are where I work is each person taking 60 seconds to try to convince everyone else of how busy they are.[/special]

..at the end of the meeting, the team leader’s pep talk was, “Keep your heads down.”

I almost erupted.

Keep your head down.

Keep your head down, so you look busy. Keep your head down, so you can’t see what is coming. Keep your head down so you don’t stand out.

Horrible advice on so many levels.

Here is what worked for me.

Keep your head up. Keep it high. Raise it high enough to get a bird’s eye view of your situation and decide if what you’re busy doing really matters. Or is there something productive you might be doing?

Keep your head up so you can see where you’re going.

What do you think of busy? What have you been busy doing that you realize just doesn’t matter? What is something that matters that you could be doing instead?

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What kinds of busywork drive you crazy?

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