Home Pastors The Art of Pursuing Real Work Versus Busywork

The Art of Pursuing Real Work Versus Busywork

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Doing the easy stuff makes us feel good, doing the hard stuff helps other people live better.

When we focus on our real work over busywork, we see intentional progress toward a focused vision or goal, rather than just checking things off a list.

Busywork isn’t always a waste of time, but it’s not the best use of time and should always be in second, third or last position.

I love checking stuff off my list. But if I don’t work from the right list, my true productivity (eternal and legacy kind of progress) is far less than I think it is, or than it could be.

This gets a little sticky when we acknowledge those items of busywork that must be done, but don’t necessarily move us forward. Things like turning in expense receipts at work, pulling weeds at home, filling out forms anywhere, or putting air in your tires.

None of these things are your real work, but they must be completed. It’s about timing, specifically making them wait and keeping first things first. That takes courage. It does for me. I squirm inside if I think someone is waiting too long for me to call them back.

It’s not easy to focus on our real work.


Busywork is easier than our real work and we like the feeling of accomplishing a task. My classic temptation is email. It needs to be done, it screams to be resolved and it’s a good feeling to see that number of emails get smaller.

Avoidance is the real issue.

Avoidance is the great revealer of the hard work, the deep work, the real work we should be doing rather than the daily tasks that are required, but need to wait.

A friend of mine who hates pulling weeds, (sounds like most of us), told me that he finds himself outside pulling weeds, and justifying it by saying, “This has to be done or the weeds will get out of control.” And that’s true, they will if you never pull them. But he also acknowledged that the real reason was to avoid doing his real work, the stuff that is challenging to do. So in this case, he trades real work for yard work.

“Yard work” needs to be done, but learning the “art” of when is the essential lesson here.

Accomplishing your real work requires intentionality, foresight, and the ability to carry the pressure of tasks and people demanding your attention while remaining focused on the most important.

4 Critical Examples of Real Work That We Must Intentionally Pursue

1. Personal Growth

Busywork keeps you active but your mind can still become dull. The human mind requires exercise much like the body to remain strong and fit.

We don’t need to avoid our many repeated functions and responsibilities at work any more than we would avoid brushing our teeth twice a day at home. But be mindful about what is new in your life and how you are growing as a person and a leader.

Busyness crowds out a deliberate nature to pursue growth. Busyness to accomplish tasks and pressure to stay busy consumes us in non-productive patterns.

You don’t have to change your entire job to keep growing, but what one thing are you doing that is new and stretches you?

Can you name one to three skills or heart attitudes in your life and leadership that you are pursuing deliberate and measured growth?

2. Think Time

Have you have set aside times during the week dedicated to think time? Next to your pursuit of God, it is the number one responsibility of a leader.