When I first started teaching people how to program and do web development, I used to take breaks and get on the phones. I liked doing some of the admission sides of things. I really enjoyed doing interviews with potential students because I realized that when they talked to an admissions counselor, they didn’t always get the perspective that I had working as a web developer for over a decade. Doing more interviews meant that I got to tell them my on-the-ground experiences about programming and web development, I could share with them the fact that programming and web development have opened incredible opportunities for the initiated and hard-working, but it wasn’t going to be easy for most people.
There are times when the job is boring to the point of mundane, sometimes you break things trying to fix other things, and sometimes you find yourself just spinning your wheels. Having worked in a couple of different roles, I see that this is true for a lot of jobs and industries. Yes, there are fun things about any job. There are also the hard, grueling tasks that take more brainpower than brute force, and sometimes it’s the opposite. You have to have grit to get through those tasks and days.
My mentor called me out this last weekend, I was telling him about what I had been up too all week. I told him how busy I was with this and that, how busy I was taking care of these side things I had going on. The phone calls, the emails. I was busy and exhausted. Then he said something I didn’t believe I’d hear him say:
“Dan, busy is lazy. Busy is weak.”
I didn’t understand at first, but then he reminded me of a story that I told him about how I used to avoid doing hard tasks when I was programming everyday. I’d get to some tough part of a website I was building and whoosh, I was off on a break–I’d call it “desk-drawer processing” to feel better. I told myself I’d give it a rest for a bit and the solution would come to me. Sure that can work, but when I came back to the task, sometimes I’d find myself distracted, working on little tasks that I’d create right there on the fly. “Oh, this graphic is off a little.” Or, “I don’t like this font, let me look at other fonts.” And, “The spacing on this code is off, maybe I can find a tool to auto parse and clean up this messy code.”
I’d start to do things that avoided the hard work I needed to do. I would make myself feel like I was doing something but really… I was just doing busy work.
“Dan, do the hard things first.” Is what I was being told. I needed to refocus on the difficult problems with my code and not on the easy work that didn’t even matter at the end. What I needed was an application that did what I wanted it to do, not how it looked or how the fonts didn’t match the layout.
So my question for you this beautiful Tuesday morning (or later for some of you): Are you Busy??
I challenge you to dig in today. Do the hard things first. Don’t get trapped in busy work. If you’re not sure, take a moment and consider the things that make the biggest impact in your bottom line. Are you doing those things? If you’re supposed to be calling someone you don’t really like but you need to talk to them to get your task done, then call them! If you have some painfully mundane tasks to get through to finish a key phase in your project, then get to it! Let’s do the hard things today, because they are hard and because they are the things that will get us closer to the finish line.
Here’s an acronym I came up with to remind myself what busy really means:
- B – Being,
- U – Unable to,
- S – Stop,
- Y – Yourself
Remember, self-conduct and self-control are the basis of all personal achievement. You have to act the way you need to act to get the results you want. Don’t forget! Stop yourself next time you find yourself in a whirlwind of activity, and look down. Are you moving forward, or are you spinning furiously in one spot because you want to feel like things are going well? Moving forward takes grit, perseverance, and resolve.
Have a great week all! Love you! Chins up today–you’re my inner circle!