We like busy work. It’s always at least a little bit less painful than the task we know we should be doing. At the same time, we feel at least a little productive.

Cleaning behind the fridge is normally less than inspiring, but it doesn’t sound half-bad when the other option is doing your taxes.

It’s important to be aware of when you’re avoiding your real work for busy work. You’ll actually be happier if you make the most of your time each day.

Consider these examples of busy work:

  • Deleting old emails
  • Unplanned house cleaning
  • Learning when you should be doing
  • Organizing files

Busy work is any activity that provides less value than what you should be doing.

It gives the false impression that you’re being productive. We can feel pretty good about doing busy work. We’re active and feel like we’re accomplishing something. No one can say that cleaning out your desk drawers is a completely useless activity.

However, it’s not a pressing activity. It’s probably not the absolute best use of your time at that moment.

Busy work gives the illusion that you’re productive, but it doesn’t make the boss happy or pay the bills. It doesn’t make progress toward your goals.

It’s a form of procrastination. When engaged in busy work, you aren’t being completely useless, but you’re avoiding your real work nonetheless. Recognize that busy work is just a way to procrastinate in a way that seems justified.

You’re failing to do what’s meaningful. Ultimately, busy work prevents real progress from happening. You might be active, but you’re not effective.

Using your time wisely is the key to success and progress.

Avoid busy work and accomplish more today with these strategies:

Plan your day. This shouldn’t take long. Five minutes is plenty. You can choose whether you do this in the evening or first thing in the morning. Make a list of high-priority items that need to be done before the end of the day.

There are many apps available that will allow you to create a schedule and set reminders. You’ll always know what’s on your schedule, even if you’d like to forget.

Pick out the three most important items. Ensure that you’re using intelligent criteria for choosing these items. These should be items that will move the needle, not just be items that feel good to do. In fact, the most important items will often be the least appealing.

Busy work is about avoiding discomfort. Choose your tasks based on usefulness, not on how enjoyable they seem to be. Average people plan their lives around comfort. Avoid being average.

Get started early. Avoid waiting as long as you can to get started working. Create a little momentum and use that to carry you through the day. If you have a productive morning, the rest of the day will be productive, too.

Before beginning any task, ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time at this moment?” Asking that question and allowing yourself to be guided by the answer is the solution to avoiding busy work. It can be that simple.

Busy work will waste your time and keep the achievement of your goals off in the distant future. Take control of your day by keeping busy work at bay. You already know what you should be doing. The key is just doing it.