“How’s things?” “Busy as usual!”. “Are you busy?” “It’s crazy at the moment”. “Busy” “Yes, my diary’s back to back”. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like you? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. After all, modern life moves quickly; leaders have demanding jobs that keep us busy from morning until night; we’re connected to work, through our phones, all the time; we never have time to do all the things that we need to do and it’s frustrating, stressful and can be overwhelming. But let me ask you something, why are you really so busy?
Truthfully, when you look at a colleagues diary/calendar and see that they have very few meetings and loads of time what do you think? “There’s someone who manages their time really well” or “They must be a bit of a slacker/not very good if they’ve got so little on”? I know, I’ve taken the latter view in the past. But there’s something that I’ve come to acknowledge recently. My busy-ness is of my creation. I have control over how busy I am and being busy makes me less efficient and effective and not more. Being busy isn’t a badge of how successful you are.
Hands up anyone who has sat in a meeting or completed a task or activity that they thought was pointless. Keep your hand up if you do this same meeting/task/activity on a bi-monthly basis. What about monthly or weekly? For those of you with hands up (or more likely nodding slightly and thinking about more than one thing), how many of you have questioned the validity of the meeting/task/activity other than to complain about it in a ‘safe space’. When was the last time that you constructively questioned the reason for something that seemed to have no point, other than to steal time? Have you suggested addressing any need it fulfils, assuming that there is a need it fulfils, in another, less time consuming and more effective way? If not, why not?
Let me ask you another question. Do you really need to be a part of any pointless activities? I mean REALLY need to be a part of it. Are you adding value or do they need your consent or are you just present because someone, and that someone could be you, thinks you need to be just in case?
I know that there are some things that we need to do, even though they seem pointless to us, because it makes a huge difference to the outcome. But often, we just do things because we think we need to, or because it keeps us busy and important people are busy. I shared a video of a Charlie Rose interview with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, multi-billionaire businesspeople and philanthropists, on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. They were discussing how we spend our time and Warren Buffett showed his diary, which is virtually empty. Why? Because he values his time and spends it wisely.
So, all these things that you need to do and need to be a part of, really necessities? Are you an essential element or could someone else fulfil your role? Do they even need to happen in the first place? If you’re saying yes to all of these questions but still feel way too busy then I can tell you something, you need help from someone like a coach who can help you identify true priorities. If you’re saying no to some of the questions and you’re too busy but don’t see how to change things, then you need help from someone like a coach who can help you find the strategies to make those changes.
You’ll now think, “you would say that you’re a coach!” and you’re right, I am. But I’m also a busy senior leader who knows that I’ve worn my busy-ness as a medal of importance and seniority. I’ve also suffered under the pressure of my busy-ness, never having enough time to do a proper job of things, feeling the stress and strain and never having time to think and breathe. Changing long-learned patterns of behaviour in yourself isn’t easy and to overcome our busy-ness epidemic we need be able to influence others too. As a first step, perhaps try what I’m now trying to do; I’m trying not to talk about my busy-ness and I’m following Laura Vanderkam’s advice and planning in my business and personal priorities weeks in advance and getting them into the diary before it becomes full of other stuff, that is just keeping me busy.