Why being busy is killing your career progress

Why being busy is killing your career progress


With the rate of change, the volume of work and our always on and available work culture, being busy has reached epidemic proportions. But the question that must be asked is “Are you being effective and is being busy impacting your career progress?”

You race from one meeting to the next, sneak away from the family on a Sunday afternoon to “get on top of emails” and work your way through an ever-growing to do list.

But are you making any progress? Are you doing work that really matters to your organisation? Are you positioning yourself for your next career opportunity?

It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security thinking that we are achieving purely because we are doing.

But being busy is not the same as doing work that is effective, of importance and moving the needle forward.

When Julie first came to me she was exhausted. She was working long hours, meeting the monthly deadlines for the core requirements of her role but she knew it wasn’t enough.

Her career had plateaued, she had been overlooked for a promotion and she had lost the sense of achievement that comes with making a significant contribution.

Julie had fallen into the trap of churning through her to do list rather than planning and prioritising work that mattered. Key projects that would significantly impact the business growth remained unfinished and her commitment to perfection was leading her towards burnout – fast.

Doing good work is not enough to get promoted.

Career progression and success requires more than purely doing what we did last year. As Marshall Goldsmith pointed out in in his classic leadership book, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

We need to be constantly learning, growing and contributing in new ways each year.

More than anything, we need to be seen to be doing work that has a significant impact on the key goals and objectives of the business. And in the fast paced, ever changing working environment, we need to be working on projects that support continuous improvements, innovation and business growth.

So… It’s time to stop being busy and start prioritising for progress.

This is all about prioritising your time, energy and resources to create progress towards achievement of key organisational goals and targets that will move you forward towards your personal career aspirations.

Here’s how to stop being busy and prioritise for career progress.

1. Clarify your career goals. Career progress will only happen when you know what you want. I know many smart, ambitious women whose careers have been more by default than design.

Working hard and doing great work probably worked well for you in your early career but it’s not enough to get more senior roles. Getting clear on what you want for the next phase of your career is a critical first step.

2. Claim you personal priorities.   The next step is knowing what’s important to you on a personal level. Is your career growth a priority right now or is it something else?

 Do you want to spend more time with your family, get a side project off the ground, focus on home renovations, manage your personal finances better or take an extended holiday?

What are your personal priorities and how will you make these happen in conjunction with your career aspirations?

3. Align with the business goals. The opportunities that will come your way are closely aligned with the degree of impact you have on the business goals and strategic objectives. Get clear on what these are and ensure you are prioritising activities that will get you seen, heard and recognised for your contribution to these goals.

4. Pause and plan. This step is critical… especially when we are busy. Put aside an hour or two to map out what you want, what’s important to you and your organisation and identify the big ticket projects that will get you the recognition you deserve.

This is not about creating a long, exhaustive list.

Pick three to five projects that align to the business goals and allow you to play to your strengths while also leading you towards your personal and career goals.

Next, break this down into a 90 day plan. Be realistic about what you can get done in this timeframe while also setting yourself a bit of a stretch. After all, we are on a mission to raise your profile, set a new benchmark and get you on the radar of the people who can support you to achieve your career goals.

Ladies, it’s time to get super strategic about where you dedicate your time, energy and resources. 

5. Prioritise to make it happen. The busy work will ALWAYS take priority if you let it. As the saying goes, nothing will get done if it’s not scheduled. So lets schedule the work that really matters. Block out time in your diary a couple of times a week to get the big ticket work done.

6. Work smarter not harder. So I hear you saying … this is great Jane, but I’m already busy. I don’t have the time for this. I get it. And that’s why we must look at ways to get more done while working less. Let’s start by letting go of the need to get everything perfect. Imperfect implementation is better than the project languishing on your to do list incomplete.

7. Elevate your success. Don’t keep yourself or the great work you are doing a secret. Being humble is a beautiful attribute but not when it keeps your skills and talents hidden. It is possible to actively self promote while remaining authentic, in integrity and without being icky. It’s time to get out there and get known.

Now it’s over to you.  Download my 10-step Action Plan and learn how to work smarter – not harder. Put aside some time to put you and your career first.  Remember, progress will only happen by moving away from the busy work and prioritising the work that will really matters. Good luck.




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