According to Web content management guru Gerry McGovern, the modern condition of “being busy” is an industrial-era relic that needs to be put to rest. In fact, many of us are so caught up in working long hours and producing a large quantity of work that we may be ignoring the idea of thinking clearly and working intelligently:
“Being busy is often an excuse for not doing something you should be doing. For me it has often been an excuse for not thinking, managing, and planning properly. Working hard is no longer the route to success it once was perceived to be. In an era of outsourcing and offshoring, success definitely does require hard work, but what is way more important is smart work. Basically, all the hard work will be outsourced, with just the smart work remaining.
If you want to have a successful future, you must learn to become a better manager, both of yourself and other people. The rise in offshoring, for example, leads to a rise in the need for clear planning, and precise project management.
The world is full of busy people, but there is a definite lack of quality planners and project managers. Stop measuring yourself on how busy you are. Start measuring yourself on how effective you are.”
In order to innovate effectively, we need to have time to think clearly and broadly. That can’t happen if we’re working 60-80 hour weeks, trying to be a “top producer.” McGovern points out in this excellent essay that for some types of work (he specifies writing, but I say it applies to all types of knowledge work), the quality goes down significantly the more hours we pound away at it.
So remember to step back from your work from time to time, and ask yourself: Am I really being as effective or productive as I could be at this moment? How can I work smarter?