The Difference between Effective Workers and Busy Workers

Businesses today have many different types of workers – there’s the funny guy who’s always making jokes, the serious one who looks like he’s about to burst from stress, and even the cool kid who’s always playing the latest indie record from his desk. But when it comes down to it, all of these different personality types fall into the only two categories that employers need to care about: busy workers and effective workers.

The difference between a busy worker and an effective worker can be hard to describe at first. In fact, the busy worker can look pretty productive from afar – always maintaining an air of professional “my-time-is-occupied”-ness. But beneath that façade, the situation is far less glamorous. The busy worker is getting things done – sure – but not the important things, and not as efficiently as the effective worker.

The busy worker has piles of things on his desk to do, but the effective worker knocks those tasks out of the park one by one. The busy worker must maintain his illusion – both to himself and management – that he is working up to his potential.

A busy worker often finds things to keep him active that don’t actually contribute to overall work goals. Whether it’s repeatedly cleaning out his desk or constantly refreshing his email, the busy worker burns up time without getting the real work done.

An effective worker – on the other hand – will find work-related things to do in order to break up his time, whether that involves evaluating his current projects, scheduling his next few tasks, or briefing co-workers on upcoming goals and asking for their feedback.

A busy worker makes himself a route throughout the office. The key to being a busy worker is, of course, looking very busy. One example of this is a worker who might grab papers from his desk, walk to the other side of the office, stop in the break room to pretend to look for someone, take different papers from the copy room, and then return to his desk. A busy worker could do this multiple times a day – not actually accomplishing anything, but looking productive in the meantime.

An effective worker doesn’t need a faked route to look good. An effective worker has made himself real things to do – and if that includes taking papers to someone else’s desk, so be it. An effective worker’s effort will be noticed as genuine because there is an end goal that he is trying to accomplish.

A busy worker’s commitment wavers. His mind is often on other things and can’t fully be put toward the professional workday. A busy worker will never be the first to volunteer for a work-related task. He is less committed than the efficient worker, who never wavers in his aim to do the most good within his workplace.

An effective worker is committed to his business and his colleagues. He doesn’t have one foot out the door, but is fully involved with his work team and professional goals.

A busy worker thinks short term. He tries to get himself through the day and isn’t concerned with how his current actions will affect him later on in the week, month and year. “Only one hour until my next break, only four hours until lunch, only eight hours until I get out of here,” is the common mental loop of busy workers. Sure, he gets his work done (for the most part), but he doesn’t do as good of a job as the worker who concerns himself with being fully engaged in the present.

An effective worker’s mantra is “How can I accomplish this goal?” He tracks his time at work as if it were a map on which to plot his scheduled tasks – not as hours to be conquered and then left behind. He isn’t thinking about how to get through the day – he’s thinking about how he’ll get things done throughout the future.

So while it’s true that every business has a wide variety of personalities, it’s also true that both busy and effective workers can be found in every workplace. By learning to recognize the signs of an engaged worker – compared to one who’s only there to collect a paycheck – you’ll be better able to structure both your workforce and the way projects are assigned throughout your organization to ensure maximum productivity and profit.

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