Being Busy vs. Working Toward a Goal

Oh hey. I still exist. Grad school has begun, and I’m in a new-new job (long story, message me if you’d like details), and my life is in a constant state of “There’s still more to do!/How am I behind already?”

I’m currently taking basic (for people who can understand numbers) finance and a management/operations type course. Basic finance is a piece of cake for all the accountants and financial analysts in my class, but I can already tell that I’m clinging to threads when it comes to understanding what’s even happening. During this week’s class our professor split us in groups and gave us the income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the past 3 years from competing food companies. She asked us to use all 3 to analyze what was going on with that company’s financials for 2011, 2012, and 2013, and hypothesize some explanations.

I just kind of sat there waiting for someone in my group to make an observation. We were analyzing Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, and I kept relating every observation back to their roll-out of the Taco Bell breakfast menu. Large outflow of cash? That was an investment in waffle taco materials. Advertising for the breakfast burritos. Etc. My team was not amused with my comedic relief. However, the presenter of my group DID mention my breakfast menu idea as a reason for changes in finances for the company.

Side note: I still haven’t tried a waffle taco, and I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I want to.

My management class is actually pretty interesting, though–probably because it’s more about people than numbers. My prof is hilarious. He’s from India, and loves to say, “Dude!” He also loves to talk about himself and how awesome he is, bu his stories are actually on point.

This week, he talked about how he’s done operations and processes consulting for big companies like Coca Cola and Delta, and the US government (Dept of Defense!) etc. And he talked about how everyone is so obsessed with people being busy all the time. The whole 8-hour work day, people should just be slammed, right? Stuff, stuff, stuff! Doing all the things.

In one of his stories, a VP of Operations walked around the *important business* facility with him, and pointed out people outside taking smoking breaks or playing on their phones. “Look at those people wasting time! We should take away smoking breaks. Then they’d focus more on work.” And apparently, my professor turned to the VP and said, “You just wasted 4 hours in pointless meetings. You need to get busy and focus more on work!”

HA! It’s so true. No one works the whole 8 hours a day, and that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting done.

Busy does not equal productive. Busy does not mean you’re moving toward a goal. Busy does not even mean you know what you’re doing. Busy is just something we do to fill the space and time.

In another scenario he talked about how one company was somehow getting behind on billing for MILLION dollar contracts. If someone owes you millions of dollars, you’d think you would bill them on time. Invoice them as soon as it’s appropriate. Maybe create the bill before and give it to them AS SOON AS the service is rendered. (Maybe that’s not how it’s done, you guys. I DO blow at finance so far…).

But the reason was that the billing department was 2 people! TWO PEOPLE handling all the billing for a major company, and they didn’t even get their own printer to… print (million dollar) invoices. My professor had them hire 3 more people, give them the latest technology (including printers), and had them drive up and HAND-DELIVER their invoices worth millions of dollars to their customers.

Then operations said, “Look at all these 5 people! They have nothing to do when we don’t have any contracts to bill. They sit around chatting!” And the prof said, “This department is like a pit crew. When the car comes around the track, they get their jobs done quickly and effectively so the race car (palindrome) can win the race (aka get millions of dollars that the customers owe them).”

We don’t always have to be busy all the time to accomplish what we need or want to accomplish. We just have to plan it out, set goals, and be smart about how we achieve those goals.

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