Why smart workers aren’t busy doing nothing

Want to know the secret to success? Peter Foy reckons it’s all about using your energy wisely. Here’s how

“It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” Ronald Reagan.

Compare the words of a former president of the United States of America with the work ethic and philosophy of Elon Musk, billionaire CEO of Tesla and other high-tech companies. Musk claims to work 120 hours a week, while Reagan was famed for his laid-back approach to life.

    For every swan drifting over the surface of a lake, there’s a pair of legs doing a lot of work beneath.  

So the question I’m thinking about is: who’s right?

Busy fools and smart workers

We have all experienced the busy fool as a colleague. That person who is always early at their desk and late to leave, but actually achieves very little. The one who is quick to tell you about their long hours and the awesome responsibility that comes with their job, but who doesn’t really make an impact on the workplace.

At the other extreme is the professional who appears to glide effortlessly through the working day, taking everything in their stride. This person makes it look simple to win deals, easily exceeds targets and still manages to enjoy a great life. They probably have a beautiful family, a dream house and a fantastic future. It’s hard not to feel a little envious of the ease with which they live, even while acknowledging their brilliance.

Of course, we all know that nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Even those people with an apparently charmed existence, titans of time-management who coast through life with all the grace of an accomplished ice skater, have moments of self-doubt. For every swan drifting over the surface of a lake, there’s a pair of legs doing a lot of work beneath.

But there is a valuable lesson to learn from these two stereotypical extremes – and that’s about the need to expend energy wisely in order to succeed.

Inputs and outputs

Over the past 40 years I have learnt that successful professionals, be they software developers, sales folk or recruiters, share a pattern of behaviour.

With salespeople if you take a snapshot of activity halfway through a quarter, some will already have made the target and be building pipeline for the next quarter. They are organised, steady and structured in their approach. They identify priorities, work methodically and with dedication, and get things done. As a result, they can enjoy their downtime, secure in the knowledge that work is going to plan. And it’s all thanks to careful planning and appropriate application.

Those, hopefully the minority, who haven’t adopted these virtuous habits things look very different. Their targets aren’t close to being met, let alone beaten. They’ve no prospects for the next quarter, because they’ve barely planned to the end of this week. And they look constantly harassed, like butterflies flitting from flower to flower but never resting.

In short, they’re busy fools. 

People deliver results

Now, it’s my responsibility as a manager and leader to help these people develop the right habits. Which is why staff training and development are so important to business success. Invest in your people and you’ll reap the rewards. It’s as true now as it’s ever been.

What’s also true is that, if you get the right people in place, your chances of succeeding increase dramatically. We can help with that, because it’s our business to find the employees who will make your organisation take flight.

So, if I can help my staff to work smart, it’ll increase the chances of your staff following suit. Sounds like a good bit of business for all concerned, doesn’t it?

Oh, and by the way. Reagan won the Cold War. As for Elon Musk… well, he may be rich, but the jury’s out on his achievements.

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2019

Published: 26 November 2019

If you liked this article you may like to read – Spotlight on Haverhill

You may also like to read – Business insight: Analysing UK employment figures

Jobs currently available

New job
Electrical Wireman
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910175
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Electrical Wire person on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

The role will involve mechanical and electrical assembly, wire and electrically test distribution and MCCB boards, cabinets and cable harnesses. The role also has the potential for new product development by building prototype boards and testing boards before product launch.


  • Build and test distribution and MCCB panels to the standards specified by the latest electrical regulations: BS EN 61439 and BS7671 including energy metering and surge suppression devices.
  • Read, understand and work from technical electrical CAD drawings and wiring diagrams.
  • To pick and check all component quantity and quality before each job.
  • To build and assemble wiring loom kits using a variety of cable crimp hand tools.
  • Electrical testing, fault finding and resolution.
  • Production of Test Certificates.
  • To work using own initiative with limited supervision.
  • Maintain manufacturing records including: copy test certification, wiring diagrams, layout drawings and production sheets.


  • Previous strong experience in Low Voltage panel building environment.
  • Knowledge of metering requirements and installation.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Flash Testing Certified.
Read more
Graphic Designer
Sector: Marketing, Advertising and PR
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910168
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Graphic Designer on behalf of a company based in Colchester, Essex.

They are looking for an enthusiastic and skilled Graphic Designer to join their team.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join an exciting company as they rapidly expand nationwide.

Duties will include:

  • Designing and producing marketing material for nine businesses across the UK
  • Each business has their own distinct brand identity, so you must be willing to adapt as the situation demands
  • Manage the production of their 300 page brochure
  • Design other promotional material; for example posters and flyers; for use in their sites
  • Liaising with 3rd parties to design and produce physical promotional materials
  • Negotiating prices
  • Experience with website design is preferable
  • Experience with running business social media accounts also preferable

Experience in a similar role or relevant qualification is a must for this opportunity

  • Relevant extensive experience in design programs - for example, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Dreamweaver - is required
Read more
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: discussed on application
Location: Chelmsford, South Woodham Ferrers
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910167
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Designer on behalf of a company based near South Woodham Ferrers.

This is a fantastic opportunity if you have a Product Design background and can offer Retail or POS Design experience.

Duties and responsibilities:

  • Create new products, including 3D designs, prototyping and testing
  • Execute robust design process and continuous improvement
  • Take client brief either from Account Manager or Client
  • Time management and planning workload with Head of Design
  • A ‘can do’ attitude


  • Excellent level of knowledge using SolidWorks
  • Good level of knowledge using Adobe Suite
  • Experience with the POS sector would be advantageous
  • Product Design degree would be preferred
  • Good problems solving skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good Word & Excel skills
Read more
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £16,500 - £17,000 per annum
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910164
About the role

Just Recruitment is working with one of Suffolk’s most promising mortgage companies. Established in 2014, this company is looking to take on a skilled Administrator to support its rapid expansion.

Your duties will include:

  • Supporting the mortgage brokers in their day-to-day activities
  • Electronic Filing and record-keeping
  • Checking and submitting mortgage applications
  • Progressing cases
  • Speaking to members of the public, both in-person and over the phone

Ideally, you will:

  • Have experience in an administrative role
  • Possess an excellent telephone manner
  • Be diligent and detail-oriented
  • Be highly computer literate, including familiarity with Microsoft Packages
  • Have a great sense of humour

Working hours:

35 per week – Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm, with an hour off for lunch

Read more