Once upon a time, sawdust was seen as a waste product. An unfortunate externality of the lumber milling process, sawdust had to be discarded in vast quantities. It was burned, buried, or even dumped into rivers.

Eventually, people figured out that sawdust was a valuable product in its own right. It had myriad uses and could be bundled up and sold. Instead of paying to get rid of it, people would pay to take it! The best part: this was pure profit. The sawdust was already being created, and the cost of disposing of it was already baked into the operating cost of a lumber mill. This didn’t just reduce waste. It completely inverted a negative into a positive.

You produce sawdust all the time, and you throw it away.

When you do something for work, that’s the lumber going through the mill. Your boss needs you to write a report for the shareholders this week. That’s lumber. The sawdust is the connection this makes between you personally and those same shareholders, as well as members of other teams within your company that don’t usually hear from you. Instead of doing nothing with that connection, instead of throwing away that sawdust, use it! Send a follow-up email afterward asking for feedback and a coffee chat.

Everything you do produces side effects that you could harvest, but don’t. Tasks you complete can become articles on the associated skills. Projects you finish can become rapport-builders because you complimented your teammates on social media. The beautiful lawn that you landscape diligently can become an equally-beautiful picture to put on a postcard to send to your family.

The point is simply this: don’t waste the side effects. Bundle them up and make them valuable to you, because you’re already making them anyway.

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