Beware of Busywork - [225 and Beyond #001]

A common trap many court reporting students and professionals fall into is doing busywork instead of real work. Busywork is defined as “work that keeps a person busy but has little value in itself.” 

Let’s look at some examples.

Having an interest in fitness, for two years, I read countless articles, online forum posts, and even exercise science textbooks to craft the perfect exercise routine. But during that whole time, I didn’t work out more than one or two times a week.

For court reporting students, busywork might take the form of scouring the Internet to find the perfect dictation to practice to, trying to formulate the perfect practice regime, or spending hours getting one’s office space just right so one can finally sit down and practice.

For prospective court reporting students, on the other hand, busywork might take the form of spending days searching for the perfect school to attend.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:

“It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change …. We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, ‘The best is the enemy of the good.’”

Here’s a simple rule to distinguish busywork from work: If something can’t, by itself, produce meaningful progress towards your goal, it is busywork.

Every minute wasted planning and theorising is a minute that could be spent practising high-speed dictation and briefs—what will really get you to the finish line.

Unfortunately, busywork can be a recurring problem. That’s why a practice log is so valuable. Writing down exactly how long you spend every day practising keeps you honest because it brings you face to face with what you are really doing every day to reach your goals.

Elsewhere On The Web:

Why Tacit Knowledge is More Important Than Deliberate Practice — This article goes into why tacit knowledge—"knowledge that cannot be captured through words alone”—is so important for acquiring new skills and how to go about learning tacit knowledge. I think this is something that just isn’t talked about enough when it comes to court reporting education, and it has massive implications for schools that I’d love to explore. To any educators who have subscribed, please read this article.

Strength Training and Tail Events — Written by Nicholas Taleb, a researcher in risk management and probability, this article explores why lifting heavy weights is so effective: It calibrates to the extremes. With a little thought, one can draw links between this approach and high-speed practice. I think I’ll write about why this approach works in another post.

Quote Of The Week:

"As I’ve gotten older—I would say starting in my mid-to-late 20s—I could not help but notice the effect on people of the stories they told about themselves. If you listen to people, if you just sit and listen, you’ll find that there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves.

There’s the kind of person who is always the victim in any story that they tell. Always on the receiving end of some injustice. There's the person who’s always kind of the hero of every story they tell. There's the smart person; they delivered the clever put down there.

There are lots of versions of this, and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are—in the way you craft your narrative—kind of crafting your character. And so I did at some point decide, “I am going to adopt self-consciously as my narrative, that I’m the happiest person anybody knows.” And it is amazing how happy-inducing it is."

That’s a wrap for this week’s newsletter. I really hope you enjoyed it.

Please share it with your friends, offline or online, and feel free to get in touch with me at this email address if you have any thoughts!