Friday, 27 January 2017

Busy is Good?

We Asians love to associate your success with work. 

Recently, I met up with my friends to celebrate the Chinese New Year before it starts. Due to the extremely hectic schedule of many of them, we finally managed to squeeze a day out to meet. This makes me feel so lazy, as I seem to be the one who is able to make it most of the time! Many of my friends are so busy that they clocked numerous hours on weekday evenings, and even on weekends for their company. For me, I have been arriving at 9 am and leaving at 6 pm sharp daily. Most of the time, not turning on my office laptop after working hours (unless really required). Sharks, I seem too free, and it seems quite unusual. In fact, from the meeting, I get the feeling from many that busy is good, and the reverse sounds trouble. Being not busy means you are not important to the company. 

busy like a bee

There are generally a number of works that we are busy with. 

Since I am an engineer, let me share with you the type of works we are busy we. 

The first tier busy are those that are administrative jobs such as filling of purchase orders, signing permits, checking drawings, providing information to other departments, collate monthly report data, and so on. These usually require very little brain power, but demand a lot of the time. These type of jobs are company and role specific. Once you change role or company, having these skills are unlikely to be of much use. Also, while these tasks needs to be done, the company can easily outsource it, or look for cheaper labour to replace you in these tasks. Having 10 years experience in these tasks is no different from working a week. A HR personnel recently interviewed a potential candidate. The candidate was previously working in a factory, sewing eyes on dolls. She had 20 years experience in sewing the eyes. The HR personnel went on to ask since she had 20 years of experience in sewing, she must be able to make clothes or sew a doll. The candidate replied that she couldn't, but she is very fast in sewing the eyes. 

The second tier busy are those tasks that are role specific, but not company specific. By this, I mean these jobs that you do will enable you to advance not only in this company but also in other companies. For example, for an engineer this would include understanding the technology they are in,  the limitations, alternative, troubleshooting, knowing the trends of this technology and innovation for these technology. This would include optimization projects, alternative technology studies, implementing new technology and so on. Being engaged (busy) with such tasks will bring an individual far in the role he or she is in.

The third tier busy are those tasks that are neither industry or role specific. These tasks generally involve soft skills such as negotiation, management (e.g. project management), sales talk (it could be internal where you ask management to buy in to you ideas). These tasks will equip you with skills that you can use in any company and any role.

So which tier of busy are you?

Of course, all tasks are important in ensuring the operations of a company, and even the first tier mundane jobs are important. However, if you as you move up the career ladder or if your motive is to ensure that you remain employable, being involve in the second tier and third tier tasks are important, and it's important to strategise such that you move away from  tier one jobs as you work longer in the job.

Happy Chinese New Year!


  1. I would see myself more as the second tier. Due to the nature of my job, working long hours and sometimes over the weekend is common and I already know that's the nature of the job so I don't really complain about it. I guess the main thing is, being busy and "acting busy". I know many people who respond to emails after office hours on their blackberries etc but personally, unless a response is absolutely necessary, I normally ignore it until I am back in the office the next day to deal with it.

  2. Hi,

    "The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time and does not exaggerate the value of the husk" - Henry David Thoreau

    I think it's good to feel busy because it makes one feel important and sought-after. If we want, we'll make time. If not, we'll make excuses :)