Member Update: Busy Work vs. Real Progress

3 minute read

Do you ever get to the end of a day, look back at how you spent your time, and wonder why you don’t have more to show for it?

I know that happens to me from time to time (more often than I really like to admit).

Usually, those days where I feel like I was busy the whole time — but don’t really have anything to show for it — have two things in common.

First, rather than identifying what is important, I get sidetracked with what is easy. Most days, there are quite a few tasks on my list that don’t take a lot of creativity or thought to complete. But they do take time.

As a general rule, I leave those tasks until the end of the day, doing more challenging and creative work first.

But sometimes, for whatever reason, that list of “easy” tasks looks daunting or urgent and I can’t resist working on it first. When I let that happen, I’m almost always finish the day feeling disappointed by how little I accomplished.

Second, on those “busy but not productive” days, when I do tackle important tasks, I have a hard time getting started and a tough time getting into the flow. That’s usually a sign I’m mentally preoccupied by something else. Maybe I have a deadline coming up that I’m worried about hitting… maybe I need to figure out what I’m going to get a friend for their birthday… maybe I’m feeling overwhelmed by the size of my to-do list.

Whatever the reason, when I’m preoccupied, I tend to split my attention between what I’ve decided to do and whatever is distracting me. The result is that not much gets done.

And at the end of the day, I may feel like I’ve worked every minute… but the amount I accomplished falls short of what should have been possible.

So what do you do when you find unimportant tasks — busy work — eroding your focus or crowding out your time for productive work?

For me, the best thing is to identify whatever the source of my distraction is and spend a half hour addressing it. My aim is to move things forward by a step.

So, if I’m worried about getting shopping done for a birthday, I’ll take 30 minutes and figure out what I’m going to buy and where I’m going to buy it. If it’s a growing list of “easy” things that’s starting to feel daunting, I’ll spend a half hour knocking as many off the list as I can.

That done, I can usually get my mind to cooperate and concentrate on my bigger tasks.

If you find yourself pulled away from important tasks in favor of distractions, give this a try. Identify what’s preoccupying you and dedicate 30 minutes to improving the situation. Then come back to your original plans. Often, it’s easier to get focused and into the flow, just by taking a few minutes to address the thing that’s on your mind.

New on the Site

Have you had a chance to check out the Spring Challenge? For this Challenge, Wealthy Web Writer is asking you to put together an information packet for your writing business. By creating this asset, you’ll bring clarity and focus to your marketing efforts. You’ll also have something you can confidently send to interested prospects. You can even use your info packet as a blueprint for your website! And there’s a chance to win the commission to write an article on Wealthy Web Writer. Check out all the details here, and then have a look at the recent webinar we did here.

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Mark Your Calendar

Thursday: Later this week, I’m sitting down (or zooming in) for an interview with Jay White. Jay is an exceptional writer and an even better teacher. One of the things he has a knack for is teaching writers how to make their marketing efforts easier, more effective, and more enjoyable. In this interview, Jay and I will be talking about our early experiences with marketing ourselves and landing clients, including the mistakes we made and the things we wish someone had told us sooner. Join us to get some deeper insight into how to make your own marketing efforts easier.

Around the Web 

Backlinko has recently put together a backlink strategy that has a big advantage over traditional methods… it scales. They share the details here.

Curious about NFTs and how they might work in marketing? You’ll find a few ideas here.

Neil Patel suggests some things to try on Instagram based on current trends.

And here’s a simple plan for putting together a marketing strategy.

That’s all for now. Make it a great week!


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