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Stop Being Busy and Start Being Successful

Have you been called the “B” word before or even called yourself the “B” word? You hear people say it all the time. “I’m so busy.” It’s the curse word that is overused, abused, and embraced by way too many entrepreneurs. The morning to-do list that started out with five items always seems to double by the end of the day. We seem to be perpetually piling on more and more things to do.

Stop Being Busy and Start Being Successful

Sometimes being busy is worn like a badge of honor and sometimes it’s said with a child-like whine. Regardless of how it is expressed, the belief that being busy means being productive and successful drives this relentless behavior. However, this belief is false.

In Great at Work, Morten T. Hansen finds that volume and value are two different things. From a groundbreaking five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, Hansen found that we can be productive, but contribute zero value. Hansen writes: “The advice ‘start with goals’ when planning an effort is wrong. We need to start with value, then proceed to goals.” To do this, review the ways you can create value, determine where to begin your redesign work, and match passion with the purpose of what you pursue.

Five Ways to Create Significant Value

Value means creating output that benefits others efficiently and with high quality. This outside-in view directs attention to the benefits your work brings to others. It differs from the traditional inside-out view that measures production through completion of goals or tasks. The key is not the amount of change undertaken, but the magnitude of the value created. Hansen’s data revealed fives ways to create significant value:

  1. Less fluff: Eliminate existing activities of little value
  2. More right stuff: Increase existing activities of high value
  3. More “Gee, whiz”: Create new activities of high value
  4. Five-star rating: Improve the quality of existing stuff
  5. Faster, cheaper: Do existing activities more efficiently

How to Create Value by Solving Pain Points

The best way to start redesigning your work is to hunt for and cure pain points. Finding the pain points is your first step, and you can begin the hunt by asking these questions:

  • What do people complain about again and again?
  • Where does work get stuck?
  • What gets people confused and frustrated?

You will create a lot of value by helping employees, customers, and suppliers correct pain points. Also, don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. Often systems become outdated and processes become convoluted. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Who really uses this data?
  • Why do we require customers to provide this information?
  • Why do we file this way?

Then ask “what if” questions to begin brainstorming for the redesign, like so:

  • What if we stopped collecting this data?
  • What if we provided information to customers and they just verify?
  • What if we outsourced our filing?

Asking these questions allows you to find redundant and wasteful work and create value through a redesign.

Following Your Passion But Not Getting Results? Let’s Fix That.

It is also important to think about your passion and purpose when you are redesigning your work. While we are used to championing passion as the vehicle for success, Hansen found that matching passion and purpose produces the most dedication and best performance. He found that those who match “do what you love” with “do what you contribute” were the most energized and got the most done in each hour of work. The major takeaway is that just following your passion is misdirected advice. You need to consider the unique set of contributions you can give to others first and then find what you feel most passionate about within that set.

If you’re tired of being the worn-out “B” word, it’s time to redesign! It’s time to review the ways you can create value, determine where to start your redesign work, and match passion with purpose. If you lead in this manner, your employees or team will feel empowered to do the same. The result will be an energized company that makes the most out of each working hour and feels good while doing it. There is power in a redesign and in having the determination to stop being busy and start being successful.

Akira is the Founder & CEO of Cayenne Consulting. He has over 30 years of experience both as an entrepreneur and helping other entrepreneurs succeed. Akira earned his BA in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University. View details.

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