Perhaps it is a hangover of the industrial age, the idea that being busy means I am being productive, that I am working hard and accomplishing something. This does make sense if you are working in a factory assembly line and have one task to repeat over and over again or if my job was to plant seeds in a field, for example. Hard work here can be measured quantitatively quite easily: How many carton boxes did I pack today? How many square feet of seed did I scatter today? The thing is, for many of us this is not how our jobs work and yet we transfer this same measurement of “hard work” to complex tasks such as starting a business, managing a project or coaching a team.
The busyness that we so often find ourselves entangled in often has nothing to do with our mission. It is essentially a twiddling of thumbs, a psychological trick to make me think I’m doing something when I am in fact doing nothing. An example of what I am talking about would be the cumbersome bureaucracy we often face in getting government work done, when, if someone were to put in a bit of effort and brainpower the whole system could be streamlined and automated for the most part. Or, have you ever looked at your to do list for the day and done all the easy, less important things and left the hard stuff for another day? We end up keeping ourselves busy, but what we actually needed to do did not get done. Our/my problem is often laziness of mind to deal with difficult tasks. It is very easy to keep busy, it is much harder to solve problems.
The solution, or part of it at least, I believe, is to acknowledge this self deception and counter it by working creatively.
Working creatively means shifting our focus from trying to work hard (or trying to look like we are working hard!) to focusing on creative solutions to everyday problems. It means working smart and hard. It means finding simple solutions to seemingly complex tasks. It is a focus on continuous improvement and adaptation to fit our ever changing circumstances. Most of all it is the application of our minds, the most creative force in nature, to the work we are called to.