Being a bit of a free spirit, for years I resisted any kind of unnecessary structuring of my workdays. Sure, I’d do my client calls and other appointments, but when it came to unscheduled work, I’d just look around for what needed to be done next, work on that until it was finished, take a break, and then look for the next task.
This strategy worked fine for me, except that I never felt there were enough hours in the day, and I always felt the stress of what I thought was a heavy workload. Then, about two years ago, I made a life-changing discovery. I decided to grow my business and take on new research, publishing and client projects but started to get that familiar feeling of having too much work to and not enough time to do it. Then I noticed I was working about the same number hours as I did before adding these extra assignments.
How was it possible that I was doing more work in the same time? When I compared my working days, with fewer versus more projects, I realized that I wasn’t really doing more work—I had simply become more efficient.
For one thing, I grouped similar tasks together, so I didn’t have to mentally change gears between projects. I also worked in longer stretches with fewer breaks. But most importantly, I found less time-consuming ways to get things done; from emailing questions to clients rather than calling, to checking my emails at regular intervals rather than constantly, to changing or updating existing documents rather than writing everything from scratch, to name a basic few step.
The truth is that for years I’d been wasting my time on “fake work,” a term coined by Brent Peterson, author of the book “Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder but Accomplishing Less.” That is, inefficient or redundant tasks were filling up my days, creating the illusion that I was busy, while preventing me from tackling new, more challenging tasks because “I just didn’t have the time.”