People Spend 58% of Their Day on Busywork — 7 Ways to Cut Down

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Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Sara London for Hive
Sara London for Hive
May 19, 2024 at 5:18PM UTC
If you’re having trouble condensing your workflow and streamlining processes, there might be one main issue standing in your way: busywork. A new Asana survey shows that of 10,000 workers surveyed, respondents spend 58% of their days doing busy work – what they called “work about work.” This includes switching between apps, asking others for information, chasing down coworkers for status updates, and everything in between. So what are some ways that you streamline, automate, communicate and prioritize your processes to cut out this busy work and really get down to business?

What is a streamlined process?

You might already be familiar with streamlining processes, as the definition isn’t that complicated. Ideally, you’ll take a process (a series of tasks that need to be done in a specific order to achieve an end result) and make it cleaner, more organized, and less time-consuming. This can be done in any number of ways, such as assigning the process to one particular person, manualizing the process, or automating the process with code.
Many processes across numerous departments can be streamlined, and sometimes, a good workflow software will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Human resources can streamline processes for onboarding; management can streamline employee reviews; compliance officers can streamline quarterly reporting; marketing can streamline follow-up emails, and much, much more.
Unfortunately, sometimes these processes that should be simple are convoluted by excessive, unnecessary tasks – which is why you’ll want to follow these tips to streamline processes and cut busy work.

1. Find out best practices.

These days, tech is everything when you’re looking to cut busy work. Luckily, the glut of workflow and business management software options can cater to even the most specific processes, or they can be good for general use and work across departments for an entire company. To find out how to streamline processes, you should examine the industry standards. In particular, find out what tech others in your profession are utilizing. Once you analyze those options, including the windfalls and pitfalls of the trendiest software, you’ll know where to go to find resources that make your job easier and not harder.

2. Create several processes.

One big problem with busy work is that even if you make a process that seems to cut it, it may very well pop up in unexpected places. Rather than just making one process to streamline your work, try making several. While it seems like a lot of legwork, you’ll come up with exciting and inventive ways to cut some aspects out of your workflow, see where the repetition lies, and potentially rearrange or rethink process-hindering status updates.

3. Automate.

What’s the most effective and most straightforward way to cut out busywork? Automate it! If you’ve got the right tech, you can trigger purchase orders to send automatically once a task is completed, install a code that sends out a marketing follow-up email blast, transfer information from one app to another, or any number of other essential tasks. As long as you can identify which parts of the process are the most feasible to streamline and how you’ll accomplish it, anything is possible when it comes to automating tasks.

4. Enable flexibility.

You might be working on a process that doesn’t stress role flexibility as an optimal part of the team dynamic. Still, the ability to shift roles and share knowledge is extremely valuable when streamlining processes. Cutting busy work doesn’t always mean asking one person to do the entirety of an undesirable task to free up bandwidth for the rest of the team – sometimes, everyone’s got to work together to complete a process faster so that you can all move forward as one unit.

5. Time your tasks.

Next, if you’re having trouble cutting busy work to streamline processes, you might be spending too much time on some aspects of your process and not enough time on others. If you feel like you’re stuck trying to figure out what stage to pare down next, try timing each task in your process and seeing which takes you longest. Then, consider if there are parts of that task you could be automating, delegating, or doing differently.

6. Be time-sensitive.

Streamlining processes can sometimes mean completely eliminating busywork, but it can also mean accomplishing tasks in the most timely manner possible to evade the busy work. If you have a free moment, try doing a quick and easy task in your process and breaking down a larger task into more manageable bits. That way, you can realistically tackle things you’d usually put off either because they’re unexciting or repetitive.

7. Get some feedback.

Another great way to cut busy work is to get a fresh set of eyes on it and see if there’s busy work being done that you aren’t able to spot yourself. Ask a manager, coworker, teammate, or someone on a comparable team to yours to look at your process, see what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better. You can also get feedback from those involved in the process with surveys or team meetings.

8. Look at the outcomes.

A reasonable way to determine whether or not your process is working is to examine your outputs or outcomes and see if they’re satisfactory. If they meet your expectations in terms of quality, timeliness, or content, you’ll know that your process just needs a bit of fine-tuning. If they don’t, you can see which parts you find unsatisfactory and pull your team in for an overhaul of your process.

Streamline for your skills

If you feel like you aren’t fully utilizing your time for skilled work and that your processes feel a bit log-jammed, try finding some ways to streamline processes. By strategically examining and eliminating busywork from your processes, you’ll be able to focus on the work that really matters to you – and you might even be able to enjoy your workdays more.
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This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

How much time do you think you spend on busywork? How do you try and cut this down? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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