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Stop the busy work; start the work that matters

Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We live in an age where there is simply too much! Too much information coming at us more quickly than we have any chance of processing it. Too many daily innovations in ways to reach people and interact or react through social media. Too many details to track and too many distractions to think. Our leadership bias has moved to doing vs. thinking. What is so often missing is time to think. When we catch ourselves thinking, we might even feel guilty about wasting time. There is just so much to do!

Most of us know when we are doing good work. Good work is the work we do day to day that pays the bills and provides the fulfillment of providing services, goods, and information that is valued and useful. This is work we do to meet the needs of others (if we are successful with it). Doing good work meets our needs as well – our needs for income, steadiness, comfort, and predictability. We are happy when things are running smoothly and we are producing good work.

Good work is important. But then, there’s Great Work. Great Work is work that is going to stretch you personally. It may or may not have anything to do with your daily bread and butter. This is work that is is for you. Work you do for you. Not that others may not like, appreciate, and benefit from it. Those are not the reasons you do it. You do it for you. It is the work that stretches, challenges, and opens you. It takes you away from the daily limits of who you think you are and moves you into a zone of exploration and deeper understanding of yourself, your capabilities, and the world in which you find yourself.

When you do Great Work, time seems suspended, practical creative ideas flow easily, your sense of self is coherent and you know that you are doing your “right stuff.” Great Work also can be a time of groping your way through, of confusing and contradictory ideas, of uncertainty about things fitting together and working out. Doing Great Work can test your will and perseverance. Your own Great Work may be an elusive idea that seems far out of reach. Work that you will do someday – when you can get enough bankable good work done to buy the time to get down to the creative struggle of producing your Great Work.

Great Work may be a lifetime pursuit or happen in a moment. Where are you with your Great Work?

On a scale of one to 10, how committed are you to doing the Great Work that is calling you? Is your number high enough to ignite the fire of motivation in you? If not, perhaps you haven’t discovered your Great Work yet. If it’s a 10, what would need to be different for you to get really engaged with your great work project?

The idea of work that matters is explored by Michael Bungay Stainer in his book “Do More Great Work.” Stainer is a consultant and trainer who spends time exploring how Great Work comes into being. He says that we need to start by taking a look at what we are doing now. We all do some bad work, some good work, and even some Great Work. Here’s data from people around the world: 10-40 percent Bad Work, 40-80 percent Good Work, 0-25 percent Great Work. Yes, we all do some bad work. That’s work that wastes our time and does nothing for us or anyone else. Sometimes it seems like we are doing good work when we are actually using bad work to keep us from doing good work. More importantly, we often use good work as an excuse to not get going on our Great Work project.

If you are curious about how to get more Great Work into your life, Stainer’s book has 15 maps that will help you sort out where you are and how to make the choices you need to get more Great Work in your life and even into your organization. Of course, like most good things, doing Great Work will take commitment, motivation and some time for thinking and working.

“Do More Great Work – Stop the busywork, and start the work that matters.” (Michael Bungay Stainer – Workman Publishing).

• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants who help small business and non-profits overcome the marketing and motivational myths that are keeping them and their businesses from unbounded success. AnneBob@CreativeCore.com – www.NLPeople.com.

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