We all get busy. Some consider it a badge of honor to always be busy.
Yet when you really look at the results from a crazy busy person, there is not always the outcome you might expect.
The desire to be busy comes from several contributing factors. I am basing this on years of executive coaching and business advisory work where I witness well-meaning people burn themselves out by accepting busy-ness versus results as the measure of success.
First let me explain the basis from which many people accept the work loads they do.
Desire to Perform – A few folks were raised with a guilted concept of busy-ness equals personal worth. Their parents actually promoted the idea that if you were awake you needed to be busy. Need I say more about the insanity that might produce?
Perfectionism – This one is more widespread than you think. Perhaps it was instilled in school – “get straight A’s.” Or it comes from an insecurity of some kind. Either way, perfectionism curses many of us. Some just occasionally, others more permanently.
Fear – Another classic human emotion that interrupts productivity, happiness, and inner peace. Some people are simply afraid that if they say ‘no’ they will be thought of as less than, so they always say yes, totally consuming the hours in their days.
These three culprits ruin more people than you might imagine. The struggle is real though. For almost every coaching engagement I enter, we at some point deal with one of these demons.
I have determined (by somewhat un-scientific method) that there are workable solutions to help ease the pain of busy-ness. Here they are.
First, Volume is NOT equal to Value.
Get this straight. Just because you are grinding out hours and hours of work product, you may not be adding value to the cause you serve. People will take advantage of YOUR time. You need to be the keeper of your calendar. Set standards and proper expectations.
You also need to consider proper evaluation of importance and urgency in what you do. In a prior article I highlight the Eisenhower Grid for setting priorities.
Learn to say “Yes, but not now”
This is a powerful response to requests for your time. Too many people get asked to do something and just say yes, sure. But they never allow a time constraint on the request. They accept the ask and immediately proceed to place it at the top of the stack.
This happens frequently in larger businesses. More senior people call you and ask for something. You assume they need it immediately because they are more senior. Simply not true.
Try responding with “Yes, I understand the request. I can get that to you day after tomorrow. Will that be OK?” In 9 times out of 10 situations where my clients have tried this approach, the senior person says “sure, no problem.” Now, guess what?
If you can deliver tomorrow instead of day after tomorrow, you are the super star. You beat expectations. And yes, occasionally that senior person is a dill weed and makes life hard for everyone, so you have to jump. But that makes them the one out of ten. Nine other times, you get a break.
Allow a Pattern Interrupt
We are creatures of habit. We all find ourselves getting into ruts. One client the other day made the statement “I guess I need to watch out for the times when my ‘grove’ turns into a rut.”
It can be helpful to force yourself to take a total break. Not just the run to your local Starbucks, but something significant, like change in scenery or a short trip. Just break any and all patterns you’ve allowed yourself to get into.
When we repeat behaviors over and over, our brains strive for efficiency, so they hardwire the nodes that are needed to execute those tasks and thoughts. On one hand this is good because it allows us to operate ona kind of auto pilot. On the other hand it is bad, because we may have allowed a hard wiring of an unhealthy behavior.
Breaking the pattern keeps the brain on its toes so to speak. The brain seeks pattern recognition (we talked about this on my podcast about AI) You can interrupt the pattern by taking intentional breakaways.
There are no doubt other factors and other causes of being busy. I realize the founder of a start-up stays crazy busy trying to “make it happen.” You are short on cash and staff. But even this should be a temporary situation.
In other cases the busy-ness becomes a habit that leads to frustration and burnout. I often ask clients to consider filling out a Wheel of Life. My version of the wheel has 8 segments (business, finances, relationships, health etc). You grade yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. Ten puts you on the outer edges of the circle.
Any scores that are low leave your wheel very unbalanced. Like on a bicycle, you cannot ride very well on tires that are not symmetrically round. The same is true with your life. Allowing an unbalanced focus on busy things keep you from enjoying a more fulfilling ride.
If work has you out of balance, cut back a little. Apply my ideas. See whether you can find a better balance.
And, as my now departed idol Jimmy Buffett sings, “don’t create a permanent solution to a temporary feeling.”
Want to talk about your busy-ness issues? I offer a free discovery call.