Don’t Let Busy Work Get in the Way of Your Life’s Work

Don't let busy work get in the way of your life's work. Make your purpose a priority.In this day and age, the query, “How are you?” more often than not elicits the response: “Busy.” But are you stuck doing busy work…rather than your life’s work?

I feel busy much of the time…with busy work. And that often keeps me from my life’s work.

So, I understand. Really. I do.

There’s so much to do each day—laundry, cooking, cleaning, driving, scheduling appointments, and paying bills. That’s just personal busy work.

Then there is the professional busy work, like email, scheduling, phone calls, and reporting.

And, of course, there is the typical busy work of today’s age—social media updates and responses.

My Busy Work

Like many writers, I have an enormous list of tasks I need to accomplish each week. And most of them have little to do with my life’s work: writing.

These non-writing tasks include such things as:

  • Blogging
  • Posting on social media
  • Writing and submitting query letters
  • Maintaining a website
  • Writing proposals
  • Seeking out speaking engagements
  • Building a mailing list
  • Promoting products
  • Answering email

Each one of these tasks helps me succeed in my writing career, but most of them feel like or become busywork that takes me away from my life’s work.

More than ever before, this reality bothers me. I’m 59 and aware of the passage of time. I want to do my life’s work.


To make sure you get to your life’s work—whatever that is—focus on one thing: PQO.

PQO is a term coined by Brendon Burchard that stands for Productive Quality Output. As a writer, my PQO is writing. But it’s easy for writing to take a back seat to my other tasks and responsibilities.

I know that over the last few years, I’ve mostly focused on income-producing activities, like creating and offering courses. However, that meant I didn’t publish a book, which negatively affected my income.

When I thought back to the years when I released at least two books, I realized doing so positively impacted my income. Not only that, I was focused on productive outputs that mattered to me—and to my audience. I was happier, and I felt more fulfilled. I was moving toward my goals as an author.

That got me thinking…hard…about where I focus my time and energy. Yes, I need to make money. But I also need to focus on my life’s work. That’s a legacy I leave for others and how I fulfill my potential and purpose. And, focusing on what matters most to me—the writing—can help me become financially successful as well.

Determine Your PQO

As a Certified High Performance Coach®, I ask my clients an important question when they want to focus on increasing productivity: What are the productive outputs that matter most to you or in your field, industry, or career?

Think about the experts in your industry or line of work. What makes them successful, in large part, is that they are super productive.

No matter the endeavor, high-performers churn out more high-quality work than their peers, and they do this consistently over the long term. In his best-selling book, High Performance Habits, Burchard writes, “…that is how they become more effective, better known, and more remembered. They aim their attention and content efforts toward PQO and minimize any distractions (including opportunities) that would steal them away from their craft.”

Can you say you are consistently producing quality outputs that matter? Probably not.

That may be because you haven’t identified your PQO. As a nonfiction writer, my PQO means writing more articles, producing more book manuscripts, or creating better blog content more frequently and consistently.

Only you will know if you have identified your PQO. If it’s not clear to you right now what output is most meaningful to you, spend time getting clarity. Then focus on the PQO you identify.

How to Progress Your Life and Career

When you discover your PQO, you will experience a turning point in your career—and in your life. You’ll have more success and feel more fulfilled.

Burchard writes, “Figuring out what you are supposed to produce and learning the priorities in the creation, quality, and frequency of that output is one of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your career.”

If you are ready to have a huge breakthrough, spend more of your time and effort on the work that matters most to you and to your success. Burchard recommends spending 60% of your workweek on PQO. The other 40% should be spent on things that support your career or goals—your life’s work.

How much do you spend on PQO right now? Probably, not enough.

How to Ensure You Do Your Life’s Work

How do you make sure your life’s work comes first? Do the tasks related to your PQO first. Don’t put anything before your life’s work.

My PQO is definitely writing. Secondary to that, it’s training (speaking) and coaching, both of which support my writing and purpose. I want to make a difference with my published work, and I’d also like to write and publish more frequently and consistently.

But I’ve struggled. Busy work has—and often continues—to get in the way of my life’s work. However, I’ve done one thing that has increased the percentage of time I spend on PQO—specifically writing. I write first thing in the morning.

If I could encourage you to do one thing, it would be that—get up in the morning and begin working on the project that will move you forward. Begin doing the thing that matters most to you—and don’t let anything get in the way of that happening.

If you have a morning routine, fine. Schedule time to work on PQO immediately afterward. Please don’t tell me, though, that you have no time to do this. Don’t say you are too busy. If you can fit in a morning routine, you can fit in time spent working on a project that truly is important to you.

I get up much earlier than previously and write for a minimum of an hour a day. I work on writing books and articles.

When I’m done writing, I turn my attention to the other PQO activities, like promotion, blogging, creating courses, and serving the members of my Nonfiction Writers University, Nonfiction Writers’ University Masters, and Certified High Performance Group Coaching programs. Some of this time is still spent writing things like blog posts and sales copy or promotional emails.

Schedule Your Life’s Work

If you think you’ll get to your life’s work…eventually…when you have time, life slows down, the kids are out of the house, or you don’t have a day job, think again. It won’t happen.

Stop making excuses and putting off doing what really matters to you. Instead, get a planner or scheduling app—and use it! I use the Ical or Google calendar as well as a physical planner, like the Panda Planner, The Mastery Journal, or the High Performance Planner. You can use a simple calendar-type planner that you pick up at your local pharmacy.

Every day, block time on your calendar for PQO. For instance, you might schedule from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Make this an appointment with yourself, and treat it like a doctor’s appointment, which you would not cancel at the last minute or show up for. Be sure to note exactly what you will accomplish during that time.

None of us know how much time we have left to complete our life’s work. Therefore, it behooves you and me to get out of the habit of prioritizing busy work and, instead, to focus on PQO. That’s how we ensure we make a difference and achieve our purpose and potential.

Do you focus your time on busy work or your life’s work? Tell me in a comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share on social media and with a few friends.

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Does busy work prevent you from doing your life’s work? Give me an hour of your time, and I’ll help you see how to move toward fulfilling your potential and purpose and achieve your goals more quickly than you thought possible. Apply for a one-hour FREE Certified High Performance Coaching strategy session. Fill out this application.

Or register for my Certified High Performance Group Coaching program here. It’s a great option if you don’t feel ready for one-on-one coaching and want to enjoy the power of group learning.

Photo by Thodoris_Tibilis


4 thoughts on “Don’t Let Busy Work Get in the Way of Your Life’s Work”

  1. Hi Nina and thank you for your valuable coaching; certainly agree with the PQO concept, but I think what is, foremost, is the need = the drive. As a case in point, what would you say to a pleasantly retired 76 years that want to write but do not have the need, i.e. money, but do have a drive, motivated by telling stories that people are not often familiar with?
    The need is the major motivation to move forward socio-economically. Past 76 socio-economic is not a driving factor. So how can the retiree be driven by?
    This question will be center stage for the legions of people of retirement age flooding the market and cyberspace, how to motivate them without the need and/or drive?

    1. I love this question, George! From a Certified High Performance Coaching perspective, I’d say you must have urgency and necessity–to make a difference. If you also have passion and purpose, your will be inspired to take action. Money is one motivator…but often not the most important or effective one.

  2. Great article. So timely for me as I have taken 3 days off to get my rough draft finished. So far this am, I have washed dishes and change the ink in my pens..instead of writing. Why are we so phobic of writing?
    Thanks as ever for your wise articles.
    Renee Michaels

    1. You have to ask yourself what you are avoiding, Renee. And why…Are you afraid to be vulnerable on the page? Afraid you have nothing to say? Afraid what you write won’t matter? Get to the bottom of this, and you will write.

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