• email
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn

George Box – statistician by day, snappy sound-bite creator by night – said “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

That’s already helpful. Frameworks and dogmas help frame our world, but none is the truth, only a pathway to get a little closer to what really matters.

Me? I’m looking for models that might help me get closer to a life with more meaning and more impact. I suspect you might be too, and if you are then here’s a model you might find useful.

Three buckets

Everything you do falls into one of three buckets…

Bad Work: The mind-numbing, soul-sucking, life-draining work. The work that – if you stopped and thought about it – you’d say to yourself: This is my one and precious life. What the heck am I doing? You probably know exactly what I’m talking about as soon as I mentioned it.

Good Work: Best summed up as your job description – whether or not you hold down a regularly paying job. It’s the day-to-day stuff, the work that keeps you busy and perhaps just a little overwhelmed. It’s an important part of your life, and you’ll always want to have some Good Work as part of it.

The challenge is that it can be too much of your life. Good Work has a strong gravity to it that keeps pulling us in, keeps us immersed and busy, and keeps us stuck in something of a comfortable rut.

Here’s a test. If you get to the end of your busy working week and, reflecting back on what’s happened over the week, you think to yourself, “I can’t remember a darn thing I did!” then you’ve more than likely got too much Good Work in your life.

Great Work. This is the work you hoped you’d signed up for in the first place. Work that has meaning, work that has impact, work that both reflects who you are and stretches you. It’s the work that you’re proud about, it’s the work that taps right into the Positively Positive vibe.

It’s not about quality

Notice that these definitions are not about the quality of your work. Ironically, you probably do your Bad Work really really well. They’re about the impact and the meaning of your work. That’s a big difference.

It might remind you of Peter Drucker’s words, who pointed out there is a huge difference between doing the thing right and doing the right thing.

What’s your Great Work mix?

A powerful starting place can be to figure out what’s reality for you through this model right now. So why not doing a quick audit and see where you’re at with this.

Draw a circle, and divide it into three sections that represent how much Bad Work, Good Work and Great Work you have in you life. If you want to make it more powerful, add an example of each type of work you’re currently doing.

There’s no right answer here. There’s no “magic formula” for the best combination of Good Work and Great Work. (Clearly, you don’t want any Bad Work.)

More useful is this question:  What does that tell you about you?

And do you have too much Great Work in your life? (I didn’t think so.)

Once you see were you are now, you’re in a position to starting asking yourself, “What (if anything) needs to change here?”


Don’t miss Michael’s  Great Work MBA, a free & virtual conference featuring 25 extraordinary speakers sharing tactics and strategies to do more Great Work starting on November 10th.


Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons and author of Do More Great Work. He’s also the curator of the Great Work MBA, a free & virtual conference featuring 25 extraordinary speakers sharing tactics and strategies to do more Great Work  and that starts on November 10th.