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IT Pros need to be productive, not busy

Level 13

Success. It marks the subtle difference between being productive and being busy. WordStream and MobileMonkey founder, Larry Kim, eloquently wrote about the 11 differences between busy people and productive people in a recent Inc. article. It is a great read that offers an interesting take on productivity. For instance, one of the eleven differences that Larry calls out is that productive people have a mission for their lives, while busy people simply look like they have a mission. The key is to correctly identify your purpose and the corresponding work that will fulfill your life's mission. There is no template for your mission because only you can define those core policies. Otherwise, it's someone else's mission. In the latter instance, you have less understanding of what "good" should look like, therefore you will be less efficient and effective in your work. 

So how do the productive versus busy insights play out in IT environments? Let's take the example of automation, one of the DART-SOAR skills. Many pundits believe that automation's objective is to save time--to do more stuff. This is what it means to be busy. In actuality, automation's true aim is not to save time, but rather to improve consistency of delivery, reliability of delivered services, and a normalized experience at scale. This exemplifies what it means to translate automation into productivity and deliver meaningful value.

Translating your skills, experience, and expertise into business value is how you make your career as a professional. Without business value, you won't have value.

Let me know what you think below in the comment section.

Level 12

Yes!  This, right here, is something I tried to explain to my leadership while I was in the military.  This is also something I STILL try to explain to my leadership now that I am a contractor FOR the military.  Doing something does not necessarily mean that work is being done.  Also, just doing busy work does not mean ANY business goals are being accomplished.  I need to mass e-mail this article around my work center.  Great write up.

As far as feedback/input... I would rather take an extra week to accomplish something correctly the first time, rather than just push out a product or report that is incomplete just to say "this is what we are capable of showing."  There is no value added in that, in my opinion.

There are so MANY examples of folks being busy, but not being productive.

NPM can be busy and still be unproductive, if you've not configured it for the right alerts, the right parent/child dependencies, etc.

How many meetings have we all attended--we're "busy" according to our Calendars--and yet we're unproductive due to "death by PowerPoint" or rambling/inefficient communicators in charge of the meeting?pastedImage_0.png

Of course we've all heard stories about waste in government, waste in military, waste in highway department labor, etc.

Focusing on being productive, being happy by being productive, beats putting in time until 5 p.m., waiting drearily for retirement.



There's so much to this issue. Of recent I've been using the phrase "That's a management issue." Basically because we've had a couple of things that team mates have done or not done that irritated others on the team. Being a management issue isn't a cop out, but rather a way to calm yourself when frustration arises. Good management will address the busy vs. productive in others.

However, that said, as a professional it is on me to be responsible and proactive to ensure that I am being productive and not allowing myself to get trapped in the busy black hole.

Level 15

It's way easier to be productive than just keep busy.

Level 13

Nothing like busy work.

Level 10

Nice article. Makes you examine different aspects of work - being busy vs being productive vs being busy while being productive vs being productive keeps you busy always.

Level 20

I try to do this all the time.  I'm not sure I always provide value but I do try hard to.

Level 13

Good Article


Great article kong.yang

Level 14

Yes.  I'm always having to explain to idiot management why I don't appear to be doing much.  I also show them how much I achieve compared to others who always seem busy and overworked.  There's no point in rushing around like a headless chicken when you can sit down, think about the problem then fix it.


Agreed. There are many in management that equate "busy-ness or time spent at the job as quality."

Our primary coverage hours (we cover 24x7) are 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. We have one team member that is always getting high praise for being in the office until 7:00, or 8:00 - sometimes even 9:00 at night. That sounds impressive, but they miss the fact that most days she arrives between 10:00 am and noon - on those late nights it will be 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon.

Funny Bud Light BUDWEISER Steaming Cup of Coffee Burning the midnight Oil - YouTube

Level 14

Yes, got that here too.  We have one guy who is always getting praised for being here after 18:00.  Problem is he is supposed to be here between 10:00 and 18:00 but rarely turns up before 11:00 and then charges overtime for anything after 18:00 (and usually takes well over an hour for lunch).  I may have found evidence of deliberate sabotage by him.  I guess he wants to look good when called in out of hours to fix it.  Pity I fixed it in hours.

Level 13

I just remember someones description of Support as being an insurance policy. They should only be busy if something has gone wrong.

Level 14

Absolutely.  We should be in a glass case with a sign saying "In case of emergency break glass".  Otherwise, leave us alone, we know what we are doing.  Life would be a lot easier if management would stop interfering.

I understand what you're saying, but this is a big reason that IT personnel are often marginalized. You see it as 'interfering', they may well see it as 'doing their job'.

To achieve this seems to be much harder than it actually sounds. From my experience we all know that your words are true, however you see so much "busy busy" everywhere...

I remember discussing this topic on Thwack a few years ago. My goal in my approach to managing personnel is to maximize efficiency. One of the drawbacks to this approach is that sometimes I get too involved. Other approaches have it that the associate is obligated to improve efficiencies. My belief is that sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees.

Level 11

In the grand scheme of things, sometimes in the process of being productive, we ARE actually busy. The problem is there is a principle that manager use sometimes, if you want something done, then give it to the ones that are actually busy, not just doing busy work. How can they tell? How many things have you been tasked with that you completed in a reasonable length of time with the desired results? They look at historical data on their personnel and apply as needed. So in my opinion, Sometimes the busiest person also happens to be the productive person. The good managers know this and just don't hand out pats on the backs for those who just look busy and stay late.

I hope my manager doesn't see me responding to this post... He may think I am not productive, just looking busy. ha ha ha

Level 14

The problem is that there are very few good managers.  Most are clueless and have no idea of who knows what and who is doing what.  I used to be constantly being told to stop working on one thing and to concentrate on another.  I then get berated for not finishing the first thing fast enough.  I now just ignore them and do what is best or most urgent.  Funny how system availability has dramatically improved.

I do take your point that a good manager should be aware of who does what and should also be taking steps to deal with / help  the less productive whether that be training or an escorted walk out the front door.

Level 21

This topic is very timely with some of the work we have been doing here.  For many years our company has had a culture of "busy".  Our Techs would always claim that they were "drowning in tickets" and unfortunately our Ticketing system had been implanted and managed in such a way that we have very little in the way of useful metrics to show otherwise.  Just this year after evaluating our ticketing system situation we have implemented Web Help Desk and have better ticket metrics that ever before.  We have been able to prioritize client tickets from internal tickets and see that most of the time our techs only have 1 or 2 clients tickets that they are working on and not nearly as busy as they said.  It turns out that our Tech were not lying when they said they were busy, they just didn't have the tools to properly prioritize their workload and only focus on the important stuff and ignore the noise as it was all of the extra noise that made them feel busy. 

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