Super Habit #35: Just Say No to Busy Work

Over the years I’ve learned how to streamline my work. When I first started my career as a college teacher, I created much more work than needed. Not only did it create busy work for me, I was overloading my students. Looking back, I don’t even know how I fit so much work into one term. Then I learned how to say no to busy work.

Busy work is simply the excess that doesn’t really add to the final product. But there’s good news. There are ways to reduce your amount of busy work.

4 Ways to Say No to Busy Work

  1. Simplify: As a minimalist, I don’t just think about owning less physical stuff, but I also consider ways to get things done using less steps. For instance, in musical composing, using only electronic sounds saves a lot of time. No open mics and no need for a recording engineer simplifies the entire process.
  2. Create teams: Instead of assigning students ten individual assignments throughout a term, I decided to let them work in small teams. Rather than handing the work in, I work with them in the classroom and grade their progress. It reduces busy work for me and creates a better learning environment.
  3. Delegate: Don’t try to take everything on yourself. If you’re in a leadership position, delegate. Assign those who are working for you different responsibilities. Each employee will become a specialist in a specific duty, and you’ll feel much less stress. This will allow you to focus on what’s important.
  4. Coordinate: The old saying kill two birds with one stone is one I like to use. Of course, I’m not really killing birds, but rather reducing busy work. Find ways to coordinate. For instance, if you need to run into town to pick up some office supplies, consider other things that you need to do in town. Get several things done in one trip.

The Cowboy Way

Years ago I heard a song called Cowboy Logic by Michael Martin Murphy. I’ve always remembered this verse:

The real cowboy’s the one in the middle
He ain’t there just by fate
Cause first he don’t have to drive
And then he don’t have to mess with the gate

The point isn’t that we should be lazy and figure out how to get out of work. The point is that we should always be thinking of ways to make our work as simple as possible, to get the most done with the least amount of busy work.

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