Segue (or Segway) from Bad Busy to Good Busy

Welcome to our first blog on the new website!

How do you like it?  A couple of weeks ago I told you it would be a “website mullet” – whimsy in the front and corporate in the back.  If you love our website, then Click to Tweet! Many thanks to the awesome team at Kobayashi Online for their hard work and creative design – they really do make online friendly!


We’re just on our way back from Chicago where we delivered a presentation on “Instilling a Process Improvement Culture Through Coaching” at the Quality Expo.

We had a blast presenting and met a great bunch of quality geeks just like us!  Everyone talked about how busy they were, and how they wanted to implement coaching as part of their quality initiatives, but it was hard because they are TOO BUSY. It made me think of a Visa advertisement that I heard last week that talked about “Good Busy” versus “Bad Busy”.  They have great examples and their pitch is “When you’re in control of your cash flow you can focus on the work you love; you know, good busy. That means making more money, being more strategic, and doing better things for your clients or customers (check it out here).  I loved it. This concept has come across the proverbial desk here at Whiteboard Worldwide Headquarters in a number of ways.

Good Busy vs. Bad Busy: What’s the difference?

The first time this concept “clicked” for me was in Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Workweek.  He highlights how so many of us spend all day reading and responding to emails, instead of working on the big strategic objectives that give us value in an organization.  Why? Because responding to emails is easy, and instantly satisfying. Doing the big work is hard. If you want to change, however, you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done!

That segues to one of our clients, who said one of my favourite phrases of all time (and which we have since mentioned often in our blog): “I’m addicted to firefighting”.  I thought this was brilliant.  He was addicted to the drama, addicted to high speed reactionary problem solving. Organizations love to create and resolve these “problems” every day. It feels good to solve a problem. It provides instant satisfaction. It has instant results and outcomes. It’s so much more fun than discovering and building a relationship with a new (or old) team member, giving constructive feedback, or having a difficult (yet important) conversation on performance of a team member. Those things are hard and unpleasant, but are so necessary to achieve something like operational excellence.

So which is which?

 Good Busy

Value added activities (anything that adds value to your customer)

  • Interacting and meeting with clients
  • Production of your product or delivery of your service
  • Work for client paying activities (ie. Deliverables for a client)
  • Selling your product to your customer

Bad Busy

Non-value added activities (i.e. internal administration)

  • Internal email administration
  • Payroll
  • Doing quality control on your product
  • Time spent on advertising
  • Time spent on shipping of raw materials to produce your produce

DISCLAIMER:  Sometimes using value added vs. non-value added makes people say – well “Payroll IS value added?  How would I run my business”. Don’t get tied up in the semantics. Rule of thumb for identifying non-value added steps: any activity that doesn’t improve the form, fit or function of the product. Think of things like inspection, testing, re-work, set-up, movement of product (if it’s not direct to the client), etc

Tips to get “Good Busy”

We’re going to sound like a broken record, we’re sure you’ve heard them before – but practice makes perfect:

  1. Make a list. Number your activities based on priorities 1,2, and 3 (#1s Must get done today, #2s should get done, #3s can be rolled over to a subsequent day).  Start on your #1s (I guarantee they aren’t your favourites, you’ll be dying to do a#3)
  2. Tame the email beast. Turn off your email notifier AND set specific times a day to check and respond to email (doing email can be a reward for checking off a #1 from your list above).
  3. Improve your processes.  Are there bottlenecks? Do you have multiple approvals that don’t add value? Are there internal forms and paperwork that could be streamlined? What are you or your team doing that is making things BUSY without adding value?

The key is to  focus your day on what makes your company or organization money and what adds value to your clients.  You and “Bob from Accounting” having a CYA machine gun email tete-a-tete does neither of the above (no matter how fun it may be to prove that you did in fact email him on October 2nd asking  that expense claim question).  To paraphrase that tagline from Visa, remember: “When you’re in control of your processes you can focus on the work you love, you know, good busy.” Click to Tweet

Have ideas about Good Busy and Bad Busy?  I’m sure Visa @VisaBiz_CA wants to hear them since it’s their ad campaign – so use the hashtag #goodbusy. And if you heard it first from us, tweet us too @whiteboardcons #betterfastercheaper.

Have a happy and productive week!