You’re pounding a Nitro Cold Brew at the local coffee shop, have 19 tabs open on your browser and are running a mile a minute —you’re being productive, right?
Well, maybe, but in most cases —this type of person is doing a hefty load of fake work.
We’ve all done fake work:
Fake work is the illusion of progress.
Fake work is the illusion of momentum.
Fake work is the illusion of productivity.
And ultimately, fake work is part of the cult of busyness which values a time and effort economy —instead of a result economy.
Here’s why this matters:
It is almost as universal as gravity that in your business, project or endeavor —20% of actions will lead to 80% of the results.
In other words:
80% of what you and I are doing to “move the needle” —isn’t actually doing anything.
Let’s say you work 40 hours a week on your business, in other words, full time —that means 32 hours are inefficient and best and downright lost at worst.
Or you have a side hustle —and work 10 hours a week on your business when you could really do it in 2.
Productivity isn’t doing more, so you can do more.
(That’s crazy talk.)
Productivity is about more intentional, focused, deliberate work —so you can do less.
This is especially relevant for entrepreneurs who run their own schedule and don’t get a guaranteed paycheck deposit every two weeks.
So, what’s an example of fake work?
- Checking email 88 times a day.
- Websites, logos and social bios.
- Multi-tasking seven things at once.
- “Coffee” with potential collaborators.
- Posting and scrolling on social media.
- Long, useless meetings about nothing.
By the way, I am not saying none of these are valuable at all —but none of these are essential.
To quote one of my favorite books on this topic, Greg McKeown’s Essentialism:
Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.
Furthermore, fake work tends to avoid the important, revenue-generating, progress-fueled actions we must take.
So, what’s a better way and how can you leave the land of fake work?
1. Set 90 day targets.
Setting twelve week targets creates the sweet spot between urgency and progress —instead of setting a yearly target we forget about.
Ask yourself: what would you be thrilled to experience in 90 days that is aligned with your North Star vision?
2. Determine your Big 3.
Once you’ve explored your 90 day targets, it’s time to identify your priorities in alignment with those targets.
In any given twelve week block —we should have one, two, or at most three priorities to tackle.
3. Identify your 1% actions.
With your priorities in hand —now determine the 1% action step that you can do every day towards that end.
If your target was to launch a sales page —your 1% action step could be to write the copy.
4. Start the day on Airplane Mode.
Setting the tone for a clear, focused, and deliberate day starts the moment you wake up.
Use Airplane Mode for at least 45 minutes —and up to 120 or more —to set yourself up for success and tackle the 1% actions.
5. Filter your decisions.
Just because you have identified priorities doesn’t mean you’ll stick to them.
You will get requests, emails and shiny objects thrown your way. Filter your decisions by asking: is this opportunity aligned with my priorities?
6. Delete, delegate, automate.
We tend to accumulate new initiatives and tasks at random —and wonder why we lack clarity.
To ensure fake work doesn’t take control, make sure to delete, delegate and automate:
Delete something off your plate every week.
(Example —meetings that serve no purpose.)
Delegate one thing off your plate every week.
(Example —low hourly tasks that you hate.)
Automate one thing off your plate every week.
(Example —email scheduling to software.)
7. Curate your language around fake work.
If you’re always declaring you’re stressed, overwhelmed and busy —you’re going to scan your environment for more of the same.
Curate your language and stop yourself before you re-affirm an experience of reality you don’t want.
Fake work is the type of work that leaves you exhausted, scattered and on the verge of burnout at the end of the day.
Real work is the type of work that leaves you energized, fulfilled and embracing progress at the end of the day.
(By the way, I’m not sure who to credit for the term fake work, but I’ve heard it from Michael Hyatt.)
We’ve all had both of these days.
One leads to deep fulfillment and performance —the other to overwhelm and never enough.
Which will you choose?