When did you first start dissing “busy work”? I think I was in what was then called junior high, and we used the term to put down teachers who gave us boring homework.
True, these assignments probably did involve rote learning, and some teachers might have piled it on just to keep students manageable.
Just the same, I’m glad I know how to conjugate a number of irregular French verbs, and I think “busy work” helped me do it. I’m also not sure of a better way to learn some things.
From a pre-teen’s perspective, the cool part about the “busy work” phrase was that you could be snotty about school and not get in too much trouble.
But one of the dangers, for me, at least, was that I felt encouraged to look at straightforward tasks as less important.
The truth is, some tasks which might not require a lot of thinking are absolutely vital for career success. Here are four of them:
Paperwork – I don’t know about you, but I have to concentrate to stay on top of my billing – that’s sending out invoices so I get paid. Somehow, because it isn’t as hard to do as my “real” work, I make it a lower priority. For whom, is the question, though.
Contact lists – Mailing list maintenance is another tough one, for print and online deliveries. It’s just busy work, right? Compiling and entering names and addresses, eliminating some and adding others… But this busy work can be the lifeblood of a business, or a job seeker, and we let it slide at our peril.
Put good copies in the mail – For job seekers, after the tough work of targeting and researching companies, and drafting letters and resumes, making good copies, stuffing envelopes and mailing them can seem like afterthoughts. But your resume and cover letter are potential employers first look at you, and you want to make as favorable an impression as you can. Don’t skimp on the time and energy it takes to make them right. And don’t let the lack of a stamp stymie your career.
Organization – I don’t think a messy desk is a sign of sloppy thinking, nor do I think it’s a sign of genius. I think it’s a sign of not being on top of your paperwork, and not having a good system for information storage and retrieval. I don’t think anyone bats a thousand on those counts in real life, but document management needs doing. The better you are at it, the more likely it is that all that paper you deal with will serve you, rather than overwhelm you.
These are just a few examples of “busy work,” which are also mission critical.
There’s another good thing about “busy work” – you can do it when you’re feeling sluggish, but still want to accomplish something.
It keeps you busy, and working. Who knew?
by Danielle Dresden