There are thousands of apps and books and philosophies out in the world designed to help people prioritize their work day and get more done. Searching for ‘productivity books’ on Amazon provides 38,699 results. It is an entire industry, and a very lucrative one. What doesn’t seem to be an industry is managing the purpose behind all of those beautifully organized tasks. I think that is just as or more important than the task itself.
It sounds obvious, I know. Of course you should think about why you are doing the things that you have been tasked to complete. But I have seen so many examples of people not truly doing that exact thing that I don’t think it is given a lot of thought by professionals.
The definition of ‘why’ is the biggest problem. Most people report to someone else in their company; we all have a boss. From that boss we are given our share of the company’s picture and asked to perform our task to further the company’s agenda. That is awesome, and I’m all for it. A company certainly thinks through why it is doing something. The successful companies think it through, at least. Unfortunately, ‘because the company said so and I don’t want to get griped at (or worse)’ isn’t a justification that will easily help you move your career forward.
‘Why are YOU performing that task?’ is a better question to ask. Unless you are 100% satisfied and happy in your current position and have no desire to grow or move on, you should be performing that task to move forward in your career as well as to help your company realize its goals. Moving forward in your career requires expanding your skills and experiences so you can take on more responsibility and handle larger issues.
Again, it sounds like a no-brainer, but how often do you truly ask yourself that question:
How is this task on my [calendar/TODO list/productivity app/sticky note] helping me move forward toward a defined goal that I have set for myself?
Sometimes it’s obvious how it aligns to your goals. Conferences, Training, chances to present to others, etc. are easily identified as contributing to anyone’s toolbox. But the devil is in the details. Looking through my daily TODO list (currently kept in Evernote, but that changes all the time because I’m hooked on productivity apps), I can honestly say that I can align all of my daily tasks to a goal that moves me forward in my career.
Having that knowledge is powerful. Once you are consciously aware of how a task can help you move forward, you can take full advantage of the opportunity to hone those skill(s). Over time, this change in philosophy can help turbo-charge your career path. I have driven co-workers and supervisors to the edge of insanity asking these questions over the years. But I can say that this philosophy, which is what it is more than anything else I think, has helped push my career forward faster than most people I got started in IT with 7 years ago (for the record, I was 29 years old when I started my first IT gig).
I firmly believe that there is almost no such thing as ‘busywork’. If it doesn’t align with your goals in some way, then you probably aren’t the right person to be doing it or maybe it’s time to start the old job search again.