In my role in business development, I often feel like so much of my time spent is not productive, and I have tried to evaluate what tasks are the best use of my time. Everyone that I know, myself included, feels busy all the time. The article below questions the need people feel to “stay busy” rather than focus on what you are really trying to achieve, and it resonated with me. I think this concept applies to one’s personal and professional life. -Carolyn Murray, Director of Client Development
So why do we waste so much time doing things that probably aren’t going to yield much in the way of results? I propose three reasons…and if knowing these helps you to be more effective in using your day – you’re welcome!1) We don’t know what’s important. I’ve observed that lots of people – both in business and in their personal lives – don’t take the time to stop and think about what they really want – and efforts will yield those results. I’ve been coaching a CEO lately who’s in the process of figuring out what’s the highest leverage use of his time in making his business successful. A couple of months ago, he had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of one of his major client companies, and he’d been putting it off because he “couldn’t find the time.” When we walked through some of the things that were clogging up his days, he realized he was spending a lot of time overseeing tasks or making decisions that his team should be responsible for…and that he’d established such a habit of doing these things himself, that his direct reports simply stepped back and let him do them. As soon as we had the conversation, he realized how much more valuable it would be for him to be having enterprise-level conversations with senior clients and others in the industry. He needed to be – in the words of Jay Goltz – ‘working on the business vs. in the business.’
I suggest you take some time, on a regular basis, to stop and think about 1) what are results you most need and want to achieve (in your life and/or your career), and then 2) which activities will most likely lead to those results. Awareness is more than half the battle: I’ve noticed that my client is really shifting his behavioral focus, now that he’s more conscious about what’s the best use of his time.
2) We use busyness as an anesthetic. Unfortunately, even when we know what’s important, it doesn’t always help. Sometimes we’re afraid we’re not going to be able to achieve the results we want to achieve; that we’re not capable, or that our dreams and aspirations aren’t really possible. And sometimes we haven’t stopped to think about what’s important to us because we’re afraid we won’t even be able to figure that out. In either scenario, just keeping busy is a great hiding place. I had a dear friend who spent a number of years being very active – keeping up a wide variety of friendships, working on artistic pursuits, taking care of his garden, spending a lot of time following current events and developing complex theories about the US government’s involvement in a variety of world conflicts, etc. etc….all to avoid thinking about the fact that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, and was afraid that, once he figured it out, he wouldn’t be able to do it.
I suggest that – if you can gather up the necessary mental and emotional fortitude required (and a great therapist or a truly supportive ‘fair witness’ friend can be a lifesaver here), you address this problem head-on. Go back up to the suggestions in #1 above, and spend some time figuring out what you most want in your life. Then figure out what you’ll need to do to achieve that. Then go for it. (You might find the approach in my book Being Strategic valuable, if you decide to do this.) I wish you good luck, if you head down this path – it’s a brave undertaking to work yourself out of the self-induced fog of unhelpful busyness.
3) We just want to have fun. This is only sometimes a problem. Often, it’s a perfectly good reason for doing things. I just spent a wonderful week in Wales with my husband, my daughters, their spouses, and my granddaughter, and it was simply pure enjoyment and fun. It was a chance to relax and refresh, to spend time with my dear ones in a place I love. And that in itself was a really important result: I want those exerpiences in my life, and I also now feel re-energized and fully ready to go back to work on Monday.