Woman looking at her notebook with a pen in her hand

Go from working busy to working focused

Self ResponsibilityTime Management

Is “busy!” your go-to response when a colleague or friend asks you how work is going?

Sometimes we can even get a sense of worthiness in being busy – like it’s a badge we wear that demonstrates that we are important because we have things to do.

But there is a big difference between working busy and working focused. And often times when we get so consumed with the idea of being busy – and almost pride ourselves in how busy we are – that working focused doesn’t happen.

What does it look like when we work busy, not focused?

Well, we get wrapped up in the tasks on our plate, the demands of our boss, the requests of our colleagues and our clients. And we forgot to zoom out to the larger picture. We become immersed in the details of the day to day and the immediate high-ticket urgent items. And we never give ourselves a moment to consider how those tasks fit into overarching vision we are supposedly driving towards.

Think of working busy like driving in the car in a blizzard with no GPS and no plan. You have no idea where you’re going. You can’t see anything through the blizzard of all that’s right in front of you. So you never know if you’re making the right turn or not. You just keep driving, straining to see what’s ahead of you, turning as you come to each road. You’re never sure if you’ve actually gotten anywhere. Until you gas runs out. And you’re stuck. And the blizzard still swirls on. Only know your out of fuel. That’s what being a working busy is.

Working focused is like still having that blizzard. But this time, you have a GPS.

So while still having an overflowing plate of things being thrown at you, you also have a sense of direction – and a plan for executing forward. So that as you drive, even though there are times when you can hardly see the road from the sky, you still know you’re headed forward because you have a destination in mind and a plan to get there. So you’ll know even if you start to get off track with all the swirl around you – you won’t stay lost for long. You won’t end up stuck without fuel – because your GPS will chime in to set you right. This is what working focused looks like. And this is what you want.

Here’s how to know if you’re working busy…not focused:

  • You feel like you are constantly trying to catch up
  • Your day is spent responding instead of creating
  • You’re in solving crises mode instead of dreaming of possibilities
  • Your inbox sucks you in – it’s the first thing you check and the last thing you do before you call it a day
  • You’re always on – always doing – and don’t have pauses built in to assess how your day is going
  • You immediately start working the moment you sit at your desk
  • You don’t know your plan or vision forward beyond what you want to get done in the next week or two
  • You pride yourself in being busy (but don’t always think about being strategic)
  • You see working late is a sign of a “good employee”

This is a terrible approach to your career because it means that you are driving forward – potentially to the point of exhaustion – without really taking ownership for ensuring you get to where you want to go. It means the demands of your day are dictating your career path – not you. And if you’re not careful, you may just find yourself down some road, in some blizzard you never intended to get to in the first place.

Don’t let this be you. And if it has been you, don’t let this continue forward.

It’s time to take ownership for your career by working FOCUSED.

There is a lot packed into this concept – which we can get into if you’d like to work with me. But I want you to be able to make moves on this RIGHT NOW. And to do that – I’ve listed some immediate steps you’d an take to start working FOCUSED:

  • Do NOT check your email first thing when you get to work – or first thing when you get up. Instead, start by asking yourself, what is the number one thing I need to accomplish today? And start on that task first – before even opening that inbox.
  • Write a letter to yourself from the future you that’s 5 years ahead of where you are now – and is exactly where you want to be in your life. What is she doing? What is she not doing? How would she recommend you spend your day? How does she think about the tasks you are spending your time on? What would she do differently?
  • Create a 5 yr goal, 1 yr goal, and then quarterly goals for yourself to help you focus your direction and where you want to move forward.
  • For each task or request that comes your way, ask yourself, “Will this fit into my 5 year plan?” Use this to help you prioritize, delegate, and determine what things to say no on.
  • End each day with a reflection on how the day went, what you’d do differently next time, and what key thing you want to fulfill tomorrow.
  • Block out time first thing each Monday morning to create your plan for the week – and base it off of your quarterly goal you’re driving towards.

You may feel like the above is overkill, or are things a company would do – not an individual. But if you start thinking of yourself as the CEO of your own career – then you will see why the above are so crucial. This is what will get you out of working busy – and into working focused. This is what will ensure you are driving your career – instead of your to-do’s taking over.