Have you heard that obligatory “I’m good; just busy” response whenever you ask someone, “How’s it going?” It seems like a ubiquitous exchange in all of our lives, as if busyness is somehow a badge of honor or a trendy status symbol. I’m just not convinced being busy is the same thing as being productive. Don’t take me wrong; I’m at my best when I have 4,872 things to do. Yet, do you ever question the busy B.S. we all immerse ourselves in?
I regularly moderate senior leadership/board retreats and at a recent one, one executive proclaimed, “I just don’t have enough time!” All I could do was to look at him and the rest of the team and convey the urgency to take ‘not enough time’ out of their vernacular! Free time never comes. There is never a good time for training, vacations, or that coffee visit we’ve meant to have with a colleague for the past six months!
Our work and lives are always about priorities and trade offs. Great leaders know how to prioritize value creation and eliminate value diminishing minutia from their radar.
Words matter, so even if “I’ve been busy!” is on the tip of your tongue when someone asks you how you’ve been, make a conscious effort not to say it. And try to remind your team to do the same.
Instead of hopelessly waiting to be given the gift of more free time, consider what high-achievers do to stay focused and accomplish impactful, long-term goals. Here is how:
- Accept that time is a precious and fixed resource
- Know how to separate Urgent from Important
- Align your top priorities with your core purpose and values
- Don’t book 100% of your time; value rest and relaxation
- Constantly look for things you should stop doing
- Get more selective about the people you give your energy to
Peter Drucker once said that “effective leaders record, manage and consolidate their time. If we were more accountable and honest with ourselves about our time and how we spend it, I think we’d all be far more effective and happier.” Turns out, most people aren’t very accurate in recollecting how they spent their time in a given day or week.
When an important task isn’t getting done, it’s important to acknowledge and admit that you have chosen to spend your time on less important tasks (i.e. posting on Facebook and Instagram). Instead of saying “I didn’t have enough time,” try saying “I chose to do X today instead of Y” or “I’m getting distracted” or “I’m focusing on the wrong things.”
This honesty and accountability will help you use your time more wisely, accomplish more and be less “busy.”
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau