Much of the work we do is absolutely meaningless, a wasteful use of our time that really doesn’t accomplish anything of value. Do you find yourself asking, “Why am I doing this?”, “Does this really even need to be done?”, or “Am I creating anything of value?” If the answer is yes, then in all likelihood you’re stuck in the cycle of being engaged in meaningless work that has little or no value to the world, your field, or even your company.

Meaningless Work…Explained

Meaningless work is work which contributes nothing, and accomplishes nothing. It’s often busy work, “should work,” dissatisfying work, or work that doesn’t really matter to you or the world. Often our propensity to engage in meaningless work is born of a fear of not appearing to be busy. We don’t want others to think that we’re lazy. It has become a matter of social acceptance and professional respect to be constantly busy, buried under the pile of “too much work.”

Do Meaningful Work

Often we’re afraid to speak up, to question why we’re doing something. We need to ask that question of others and of ourselves. Do we have a sense that our work is contributing to the health or profitability of our company? Is our work contributing something of value to the world at large? Do we have a sense of personal accomplishment?

Do Work That Contributes Something of Value to the World

Most of us want to do work that matters, work that creates a better world, work that has value beyond us. Question the value of your work to the world.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my work improve the quality of others’ lives?
  • Does my work improve the condition of the world in general?
  • Does my work make living or working better, easier, faster, or less stressful?
  • Do I feel like I’m wasting my time?
  • Is my work in line with my values?

Do Work That Produces Something

Work that produces something tangible is usually meaningful in some way. However, work that produces something intangible can also be meaningful. Think about whether or not your work is actually creating anything. Make sure that what you’re producing is helpful, not harmful.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you producing something helpful?
  • Are you producing quality work, quality products, or quality services?
  • Are you producing something useful, or is it wasteful?
  • Do you care about what you’re producing?

Do Work That Allows You to Grow

Work that allows us to learn and to grow as a person is inherently meaningful. Work that allows us to express our creativity and use our talents is meaningful. Work that allows us to expand our skills and connect to the outside world is meaningful.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you learning anything from your work?
  • Are you doing work that seeks new solutions or attempts to look at things in a different way?
  • Are you doing work with integrity?
  • Are you doing work that is creative, innovative, or inventive?
  • Does your work allow you to express your passion?
  • Do you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day?

No Busywork

If the reason you’re doing what you’re doing is to appear busy or to fill your time, then it’s meaningless. If the reason you’re doing work is because it’s always been done that way, question if there’s a different way to do it or whether it really needs to be done at all. If you’re doing work that has been assigned to you, don’t be afraid to question if it’s the best use of your time and the best way to contribute to your company. Don’t buy into the culture of busyness.

Stop worrying about what other people think of what you’re doing. Worry about what you think of what you’re doing. Keep asking the tough questions about the nature of your work. Do work that’s in line with your integrity. Do work that feels worthwhile. Do work that feels like you are contributing something meaningful to yourself, your employer, or the larger world.

And start doing it today.

(Photo credit: Nowhere Road Sign via Shutterstock)

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