How to Permanently Eliminate Your Busy Work


Simply erasing to-dos from your list only creates space for new ones. To shorten your list for good requires a proactive approach to task management. In this article, we outline three ways to permanently eliminate your busy work.

Four Key Strategies for Getting Back Your Time

Strategic thinking requires time and space. To elevate HR, we need to free up both. When we work with clients and HR professionals, we systematically walk through four tools to decrease their workload and increase their organizational impact:

  1. Automating
  2. Delegating
  3. Eliminating
  4. Tailgating

We’re sharing our insights into each method in a four-part series on how to get back your time. This article is the third in the series.

Watch Today’s Discussion on Eliminating Tasks

Val Hughes, a former HR Select Professional and now an HR Collaborative team member, joins us for today’s topic. Val has worked onsite at many companies, helping them streamline their processes and eliminate busy work.

To watch this video on YouTube, click here.

How to Permanently Eliminate Your Busy Work

What good is getting rid of to-dos if you just replace them with other busy work? Below are three ways to eliminate low-impact work permanently.

Better Understand the Impact of Your Work

Have you ever spent hours working on a handout, only to see it glanced at once during a meeting? Or created a report weekly, only to find out no one uses it? Often, we find our to-do list filled with tasks that only remain because no one questioned their value.

When starting the process of elimination, begin by scrutinizing your habitual work. Ask yourself: is this still generating the value it once did? Did it ever produce enough value to justify the time and energy you put into it?

For those tasks that you’re unsure what value they’re producing, find out directly from the source — your internal clients. Ask them how they use your work. How does it impact their work? And how can you make it more useful to them?

These questions refocus you on what matters to your internal clients and prepare you to better serve them in the future. Instead of immediately saying “yes” the next time they have an idea for a task, you’ll know what to ask to produce work they truly value.

Put Out Fires Before They Start

How often are you interrupted during your day to fix an issue? “Putting out fires” rarely makes the to-do list, but it can be the most time-consuming part of your day. To move from reactive to proactive, find the cause of those fires, and eliminate it at the source.

Start by listing out the questions you’re asked most and the problems you regularly have to fix. Think through what’s leading to these issues and what you can do to reduce their frequency.

Often, the answer is to invest more in staff training. While the upfront costs may seem high, the long term savings are well worth it. By properly training employees on the processes and technologies that impact your work, you’ll save time for both yourself and your employees.

Establish Your Priorities

What are the three to five goals you want to accomplish in the next 90 days? It can be hard to say “no” to requests that pull you in different directions if you don’t have a destination in mind. Establishing a small number of priorities is essential to keeping yourself on track.

If you haven’t established your priorities, partner with your manager and team to build them together. That collaborative process ensures you’re moving in a direction that benefits both you and your organization. If you have established them, but still find yourself overloaded with busy work, it’s time to reassess the importance of those priorities.

Setting firm priorities and sharing them with your team and internal clients makes it much easier to say “no” to new tasks that don’t align with where you’re headed.

Wrapping Up

Taking a proactive approach to task elimination not only shortens your to-do list, but it also demonstrates your strategic value. By asking the right questions to understand the value of your work, proactively investing your time to prevent fires, and setting guiding priorities, you’ll exponentially increase your organizational impact.   

Here’s to working on the business instead of in it.

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