Perhaps a controversial topic, but an important one. All sectors of all industries have their share of eternally "busy" people. They peck away at their laptops during strategic meetings, dial into back-to-back conference calls, and contort themselves into cogs that fit perfectly into the machine that preserves the status quo.

Many management books describe a 2x2 matrix that classifies tasks by their importance (important or not) and urgency (urgent or not). Items that are both urgent and important are crises which should be rare, assuming your business is well-run. Perhaps unintuitively, these items should not be the primary focus. Instead, we must focus on the "important but not urgent" tasks. These are the long-term projects and "rocks", as described by Gino Wickman's Entrepreneurial Operating System, that are critical for success.

Here are some examples of "important but not urgent" tasks. Note that more specific details such as dates, assignees, and measurables would exist for a real business; these are simplified examples. None of these will happen overnight, and all require constant effort.

Any tasks that are not important, regardless of their urgency, need to be minimized or eliminated altogether. There is a reason why the term "busy work" has a well-deserved negative connotation. Those who prioritize busy work as important work are lazy by any objective measure. As described by one colleague: "If we take away their useless makework, it reveals their laziness. Suddenly, they have no excuse for not doing the work that really needs doing."

When I travel for work, I like to focus on the tasks that require my presence on site. For example, physically setting up equipment, mentoring people, and other tasks that cannot be done remotely. I know some who sit in their hotel rooms until 10 AM on conference calls, then show up on-site and crack open their laptops to begin emails, Powerpoints, and more conference calls. Don't forget the 2 hour lunch breaks. Why are you even on travel? Nevermind, I forgot, you're "busy".

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