These days, most of us are busy—with work, family commitments, hobbies, and other interests. However, in our quest to do it all, we may be blocking our road to success. One survey found that 42 percent of Millennials said they would cancel a medical appointment because they’re simply too busy. But it’s not just our health that may pay the price for our busyness. Studies performed by psychologists have found that being too busy and multitasking not only make you less productive, but also disrupt normal brain function and can lead to feelings of stress and burnout. And if you’re burning the candle at both ends and feeling stressed, that can affect your performance at work, as well as your ability to lead yourself and others.
How to Get “Un-Busy”
If multitasking and being too busy make individuals less productive and hinder leadership effectiveness, then consciously getting “un-busy” will make a change for the better. Just to be clear, being “un-busy” is not about being lazy or slothful. Quite the opposite. It requires hard work to effectively manage your time so that you are investing enough of it in relationship-building, problem-solving, and other activities that will ultimately make you a better leader.
Even when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that must get done, you’ll benefit from taking a step back and evaluating how to get more quality over quantity out of your day. To get out of the trap of busyness, here are three steps to getting “un-busy”:
Step #1: Enlightenment
For me, this came early in my career from reading about Lee Iacocca, the leading business personality of the day. After creating the Mustang and Pinto at Ford, he served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 to 1992 and is credited with the 1980s’ revival of the company. In his autobiography, he talked extensively about what we now call work-life balance. One key interview question he used when hiring senior executives was to ask how they spent their holidays the previous year. If they claimed to have been too busy to take holidays, he would dismiss them immediately. He felt strongly that if they could not schedule their personal life properly, they could not lead at Chrysler.
At that point, I became enlightened and discovered that I could reach whatever pinnacle of success I desired and still control my time and my life.
Step #2: Conquer Peer Pressure
Unfortunately, peer pressure doesn’t end after high school. Throughout your career, you must be prepared to battle public opinion. I was once told in a job interview that the only way to move up in the company was to be the first to the office in the morning and the last out in the evening. Not only that, but the interviewer told me that one should park up front so everyone can see your car and know that you are putting in the big hours. In other words, look busy. I shared that I did not wish to be judged by this standard, but rather by my results (see step #3). To my surprise, I still got the job offer and spent nine successful years at that company. It turned out that my interviewer’s inaccurate perspective of the company’s culture stemmed from heavy peer pressure and an undue focus on clock-watching.
Step #3: Deliver Outstanding Results
If you want to be judged by the clock, you simply show up early and go home late. Conversely, if you want to be evaluated according to your performance, then you’ll focus on those activities that show others that you produce results and can be relied upon to do what you say you will do. For example:
- Promptly returning emails and phone calls
- Being on time and prepared for meetings
- Understanding what is expected of you and delivering on your commitments
- Admitting failure and showing a willingness to learn from your mistakes
If your goal is to do these things rather than filling your day with unending lists of tasks that will keep you busy, you will likely be more productive in your accomplishment of the things that matter most.
Develop and Improve Time Management Skills
For many, it would be a struggle to break the cycle of busyness and follow the three steps to becoming “un-busy”. To help bridge that gap, skill development in the area of time management can help individuals make the jump from feeling overworked and stressed, to a state of time mastery and higher productivity. Following the three steps to becoming “un-busy” and reinforcing those activities with targeted time management training will lead to a less busy and more productive day.
By Rick Willis