Why busyness doesn’t always equal productivity

David Fuller

A business owner reached out to me to schedule a strategy session. First, he emailed me, and then he called me. I figured he must be serious.

As we talked on the phone, he told me he was overwhelmed but wanted to take his business to the next level. But, he said, he needed to change the way his business was running him.

We arranged a meeting, but he never showed up. He sent me an email 10 minutes after the planned start of our meeting to apologize and tell me that time had slipped away from him, and now he was “too busy” this week for any meetings. He wanted to reschedule.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “My goal in life is to be busy”? People say they want to be happy, successful, loved, rich, famous, or even fit and healthy. Some might even say they want to make a difference in the world. But never “I want to be busy for the sake of being busy!”

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But it seems like being busy is how we all end up. Too busy.

Too busy creates problems. At work, we’re too busy to properly train our staff, too busy to pay attention to our key customers, too busy to identify what’s going wrong – or even right, for that matter.

We start to think we’re too busy for our families, too busy for our friends, too busy to exercise, too busy to eat properly. We’re so caught up in our busyness that we end up being too busy to look after ourselves and our relationships, and things start to go sideways.

At first, we ignore the simple things that go wrong, but slowly these simple scenarios evolve, sometimes with disastrous results.

Most of us are too busy chasing our tails to take the time to stop and examine what exactly we’re doing. When was the last time you took a few minutes and asked: “Why am I doing this? What difference am I making with my job, my company, and my life? Why am I so busy but feel like I’m accomplishing nothing? Why is my life spinning by so fast? What am I doing that keeps me so busy?”

Busyness creeps up on us. It doesn’t happen overnight.

When we start a business, a new job or even a family, there are times when we sit and wish to be busy. I remember in the early days of my businesses when I would sit alone in the office, put my feet up on the desk and pull out a guitar because there was nothing else to do but wait for customers to respond to my marketing efforts.

However, as the years go by and the business and family grow, you understand what your responsibilities are, and the demands pile up. Busyness has crept in, and we conclude that we aren’t successful if we aren’t busy.

The reality is that being busy doesn’t mean that we’re fruitful, effective, important or happy. We’re fooled into thinking there’s a direct relationship between being busy and success.

There isn’t!

In fact, some of the most productive chief executive officers, business owners and managers don’t seem too busy at all. They aren’t running from meeting to meeting, putting out fires, micromanaging and getting home late at night. They hire the right people and give them responsibilities. They make time for what’s important in life and business. They’re experts at blocking time in order to accomplish what’s important.

I know of one CEO who had nine divisions reporting to him. Instead of being overwhelmed, he scheduled a weekly one-hour session with each division manager. He put aside one hour a day for “urgent meetings,” when these managers could schedule 15-minute problem-solving sessions with the boss. This left him plenty of time to work on big-picture issues and spend with his family.

Busyness doesn’t happen overnight – nor does organization. However, if we let busyness take control of our lives, we end up wondering years later where all the time, friends, family and relationships went.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed and too busy, it’s not too late.

By starting now and taking control of your days with tested time-management practices, you’ll rarely find yourself too busy for what’sessentialt in life.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.

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