The Adaptive Agency Blog

Our Love Affair With Busywork

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Strategy

Ah, busy work.

It starts as an innocent fling, doesn’t it? A little task here, a minor assignment there, and before we know it, we’re in a full-blown, committed relationship.


From Obstacle to Escape

Here’s the raw truth:

At some point, everyone realizes that busy work is holding them back. But they don’t do anything about it. They just lament it. It’s a bad relationship, but it’s easier than breaking up.

That’s because it’s a good escape from the pressure of having to do something unfamiliar, no matter how valuable.

We continue to immerse ourselves in the familiar, the easy, and the non-threatening, all under the guise of being “productive.” But what we’re really doing is sidestepping the unfamiliar, the challenging, and the potentially rewarding.

It’s a subtle transition from doing to dodging.


Holding Tight to the Trivial

In my consulting adventures, I’ve witnessed a peculiar phenomenon: a staunch reluctance to let go of even the most mundane tasks. Why?

“I can’t trust anyone else to do it as well as I can.”

Ok, let’s suppose for a moment that’s true. There’s a trade-off: ensuring low-value work is done perfectly is ensuring high-value work doesn’t get done at all.


The Perfection Paradox

There’s a paradox in perfecting the trivial while monumental opportunities await our attention. It’s like meticulously polishing the brass on a sinking ship. Sure, it’ll shine, but will it keep the ship afloat?

In my interactions with professionals, I’ve seen the struggle in their eyes – the conflict between the pressure of what they could do and the comfort of what they’ve always done.

Yes, we’re back to the status quo.


Breaking Up

So, how do we break up with busy work?

  1. Acknowledge the Affair: Recognize when and why we’re resorting to low-value tasks.
  2. Trust in Delegation: Understand that perfection in triviality is not a badge of honor, and trust others with those tasks.
  3. Embrace the Unfamiliar: Step boldly into the realms of high-value (albeit uncertain) territories.

Because, remember:

Growth lies not in the perfection of the trivial, but in the pursuit of the monumental.


Reflecting on the Affair

Our love affair with busy work is both comforting and perilous. It’s a safe haven that shields us from the intimidating, yet it’s also a prison that binds us away from true progress.

So, ask yourself:

“Is my pursuit of perfection in the trivial impeding the potential for monumental success?”

Until next time, let’s dare to step into the uncertain and truly elevate.