We all experience those periods at work when it feels like we are drowning in ‘busy work’. You know, those tasks that are annoying and small but need to be completed. These sorts of tasks eat away at our efficiency, productivity and detract our skills and attention from more meaningful and big picture projects. It’s frustrating to feel bogged down by these small tasks and it does feel like you are being overwhelmed, like drowning.
Strategizing around how to wade out of this sea of ‘busy work’ is vital, and automation can help with this. Establishing clearer and firmer priorities is another important way we can get our heads above the proverbial water. When establishing these priorities, especially for a larger setting, team leaders should create priorities within separate departments. This creates feelings of ownership also. Setting all-encompassing priorities can be very problematic, as it will neglect the role of certain employees and departments. A thoroughly workshopped and researched set of priorities will work wonders for clearing out the small, annoying tasks that frustrate everyone.
Furthermore, leaders in a company need to be able to let go and assume less ownership at times. While it is an admirable trait to try or want to do everything because “only you know how”, it’s creating excess stress. And, to put it mildly, this statement isn’t true. Anyone we work with should be able to perform such tasks, they need to be assigned it or shown how to accomplish it. Delegating is never a sign of weakness or giving up. It will actually empower your staff and again, share those feelings of ownership.
Leaders need to consider the time investment they make into small and menial tasks. Quite often they only require two minutes, or something similar, of our time. Many professionals will balk at this time estimate and think that people getting upset about a two-minute task is just a plain old case of being immature. But the accumulation of all these two-minute tasks over the course of a day or over the course of a week can categorically detract from getting other tasks completed. It also chips away at workplace happiness. When you consider two-minute tasks in this light, they can become almost cancerous in nature. And that means they need to be cut out.
When menial tasks get delegated, automated and prioritized, only then will we stop drowning in them and begin to make meaningful progress toward those larger goals.
This article was based on a podcast with Pieter K de Villers on the Simplifying Entrepreneurship Podcast episode 28. You can find it on any of your favourite podcast apps! You can watch the full interview bleow.