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Risky Busyness

Once upon a time, there was a busy bee.

Buzzing around doing its worker bee work.

Murmuring to themselves, “better to bee busy than bee bored!”

What the Busy Bee doesn’t realize is that their stinger loses sharpness when it’s working on projects that don’t:

1) feel sweet to the bee

2) bring in that honey

This is Risky Busyness.

Many of us find ourselves falling into the busy bee trap. Some of us do it because “it comes with the job”. Better to work on something — anything — rather than moping around being bored, unmotivated or unproductive. A few weeks back I shared how 75% of people felt unhappy at work (Gallup), 65% of full-time employees felt burned out (iSolved) and 45% of workers felt “too busy” to take a mental health day. Yet, 100% of them continue to collect a paycheck, buzzing around on uninspired, mundane work.

So what can YOU do about this?

One answer:

Stay curious.

In a recent Harvard Business Review, I read, “curiosity isn’t just essential to professional advancement — it’s central to crafting purpose and meaning at work.”

The article, written by John Coleman, went on to suggest 4 practices to help us move from Busy Bee to the Queen Bees we are:

1. Craft Your Work

2. Make Work a Craft

3. Connect Work to Service

4. Invest in Positive Relationships

But let’s say you have an aspirational (or side hustle) project you’re striving to stay productive on.

One way I stay out of the working-on-the-wrong-things “Risky Busyness” trap is with my own 4 practices:

Focus. We’re a big George Lucas family. One of my favorite Lucas quotes is, “Always remember. Your focus determines your reality.” Or, more cliche, you get what you focus on. Once you know the project you want to tackle, put on your “busy bee blinders”, ignore the noise and focus on doing the work. This also means minimize your multi-tasking. Pick a project. Pick a lane. And don’t pass go until you take on/down that first big project.

Process. We are creatures of habit. Creating those “process muscles” helps you ritualize your behaviors. When it came to writing my first book, Tuesday was my research day and Friday was my writing day. While I researched or wrote at other times, I rarely wavered from this process. Good habits usual spawn from good process. This process was entrenched on my calendar which not only locked in the time to research and write but was the prompt I needed to see coming across my phone on a weekly basis.

Accountability. Find a trusted accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire on your project. I share many stages with play-master Gary Ware who once had me write a $1000 check and date it 6 months in advance from when I shared a project with him. If I hadn’t finished the project by the date inked on the check, Gary had permission to cash it! Sometimes, fear CAN be your friend helping you focus in on what matters most.

The Quest of Questions. Busyiness is not good for business when it’s busy for the sake of busy. As a leader, circle back with yourself or your people and have the heart to ask: Are you/they growing? Are you/they working on challenging projects? Is their purpose? Do you/they feel productive?

Ryan Berman
Ryan Berman
Ryan is an author, keynote speaker, and the founder of Courageous. His book, Return on Courage, shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it.
Twitter @ryanberman | LinkedIn @ryanberman

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