July 5, 2012
You Must Be Busy by Roger North
How ya doin? How are Carolyn and the kids? You must be terribly busy, aren't you? These are the three most common questions I hear. I actually like the first two. The third? Not so much.
Being "terribly busy" seems to be worn as a badge of honor in our society, particularly for those of us in business. Is it good to be busy? Well, I guess in a certain sense it is. We want our products and services to be valuable to our clients. We certainly want plenty of clients. And, we want our employees to have meaningful work and to be well compensated for that work. I suppose all of this requires us to be busy, in a certain way.
But in a different way, busyness seems to be misused a lot in our society. I often think that the "busiest" people are that way because they have a mixed up sense of priorities. Now, I know that sounds quite judgmental on my part, but hear me out.
Think along with me. The last time you got ridiculously busy, what was that busyness a result of? Was it overcommitment? Was it a misjudgment of the amount of time available to get something done? Poor time management? A need for the approval of others? Or, perhaps you just have a series of people in your life (a supervisor, family members, demanding friends) that are not particularly considerate of your time. Or………….. get ready for this one…………. Maybe you like to be busy because it makes you feel important or needed. I have to admit, I can be guilty of that one!
As I have been thinking about the issue of "busyness" I got to thinking about the costs of being busy. For me, I can divide the costs into three categories:
- Relationship stagnation – I do not give enough time to the important relationships in my life when I am overly busy.
- Lack of creativity and innovation – When I am busy my mind is occupied with execution of my tasks. I do not allow enough time to think about how I can do things better or differently. I tend to repeat the same mistakes.
- Emphasis on urgency rather than importance – I think it was Stephen Covey that first encouraged us to differentiate the urgent from the important. When I get overly busy urgency takes over and importance takes a back seat.
Like you, I have several different "leadership" roles in my life - husband, father, business owner, nonprofit leader, etc. I notice that when I am leading well in any of these roles, I have time to listen to people. I have time to develop relationships more fully. I take time to think clearly. I take time to think in fresh and creative ways. I remain focused on my priorities and the important things in my life. When I lead well it is not because I am busy but because I am effectively balancing the execution of tasks with the extension of relationships, creative thinking and the honoring of my life priorities.
How about you? Are you terribly busy? If so, step back for a minute with me. Think about the cost of busyness. Then, commit to relationships, creative thinking and the honoring of your priorities. Together, we'll be less busy, lead better and maybe even accomplish more!
Oh, by the way, it is summer! Take some time to relax and enjoy this wonderful time of year. Eat some burgers, set off some firecrackers and sit down in a comfortable lawn chair and have a nice conversation with someone you care about.