Everybody hates busywork. No one enjoys doing their household chores.
Interestingly, busywork can actually make you more productive, and not less, by greasing the wheel, keeping you active, and even (with the case of very habitual activities) help you relax and de-stress.
Sometimes, the only way to be productive is to make yourself busier.
We probably all know what I mean when I talk about “busywork” - work that doesn’t seem very important, in and of itself, even if it’s still an important part of your job or life. No one enjoys doing the laundry.
I’m here to make the case for busywork.
When I started my blog and business, I cut a lot of corners. I didn’t bother to properly format or edit my posts much, and as a result, many of them were very cringeworthy. I struggled to find the time to update things like my about me page, my coaching application page, and more. Every single step felt like pulling teeth. No one is reading this stuff right now anyhow, I justified to myself, over and over again. Clearly, not a winning mindset.
But then something started happening - I started doing the busywork. Little by little, I got into the routine of it, and it didn’t feel so bad. I began to figure out systems and templates I could use to cut down on time while still keeping everything up to a high quality. And the more of the busy work I did, the more people ended up coming in. That’s all part of the process of getting better.
Likewise in college, I was a slob (and I ate like one - for tips on eating like a [healthy] slob, see this post). I never wanted to clean the dishes or pick up my clothes. I did everything at the last possible minute. It was a mess.
But when I got older and began to date, I quickly realized that I make a much better impression by keeping everything clean regularly, not to mention how much it ultimately saved on cleaning time. I started to listen to audiobooks and podcasts while doing the dishes to make sure that I was at least getting something else done. And of course, like before, a curious thing started to happen - I got more used to it, it felt less difficult, and ultimately I didn’t even feel like this added work was holding me back much at all.
I heard a quote the other day that resonates quite a bit with me: that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person to do it.
While it seems that this quote is very old and has passed through a lot of variations over time, it’s one of those pieces of time-tested wisdom that really does have a nugget of truth to it. People who are already busy get into the habit of being busy, and they have a certain momentum to their work. In contrast, people who aren’t doing much of anything at all will sometimes struggle to break out of their existing patterns of habit. In many cases, you really can make yourself productive just by... doing more work.
That doesn't mean that "busywork" should be completely irrelevant to your goals. Truly pointless work is obviously not going to have a good return on effort, even if it keeps you in the habit of work. Just the same way that no amount of bicep curls will improve your squat, you can't expect doing the dishes to immediately make you a better reader, for example.
This can also be treated like a “lemons into lemonade” situation - sometimes, adversity is opportunity.
I would also like to suggest that there’s a big possibility that, once you get into the habit of it, these small amounts of busy work don’t always feel like work, and can even be relaxing and de-stressing. This is in large part because of the way habits work, and the way that we find comfort in traditional patterns of behavior.
When I put on an audiobook to do some dishes, I’m often more excited for the audiobook than I am concerned about the time “wasted” doing dishes. To me, this can even be relaxing and help me recharge from more mentally stressful tasks like answering a lot of client emails.
Sometimes, adding more work to the equation will actually just make you more productive, not less. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m recommending that you do endless hard work - there’s always a limit. But, often times, your limits are a lot higher (and more flexible) than you might think.
You’ll never know where they really are - unless you give yourself a bit of a push, sometimes.
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