I remind myself that all work isn’t created equally. Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I’m being productive. I imagine that every kind of work has its fake-work and make-work. For example, as a writer, I remind myself:
Create, don’t fiddle around with italics and formatting.
Typing isn’t the same as writing.
Cruising around the Internet isn’t the same as “research.”
Answering emails, checking Twitter and Facebook, and similar tasks, while important, must not be allowed to get in the way of writing and thinking.
If I’m finding it very hard to write, I should stop trying to write and instead, start thinking harder.
If I’m finding it very easy to write, I’m probably falling into cliché and should start thinking harder.
Of course, one of my Secrets of Adulthood is that the opposite of a great truth is also true, and I have several resolutions aimed at helping me not to worry constantly about being efficient, but instead, to force myself to wander and schedule time for play. Sometimes, I work best by doing things that don’t look like “work.”
In your job, do you have to fight the urge to do fake-work and make-work? What form does yours take?
Gretchen Rubin, author of two New York Times bestsellers, is our go-to gal for the best get-it-together know-how. Every week, she'll be dishing up her wisdom straight from her popular blog, The Happiness Project, to get you on the road to a more productive, healthier you. Here's to a 2014 resolution that sticks!