Why Saying You’re “So Busy” is Actually Negative and 7 ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder
If you’re in the corporate world, it’s good to be busy – after all, being busy means you’re in business! But somehow along the way busyness turned into a badge of honor – more meetings and longer hours started to signify working harder – but not necessarily smarter.
Yes, success comes from hard work. But if we measure success in hours and not output, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
According to a recent Washington Post article, Stop touting the crazy hours you work. It helps no one, “Studies have shown that after about 50 hours a week, productivity actually decreases, and it plummets after 55 hours, leaving no detectable difference between those who work 56 hours and those who work 70 — or 130, as Mayer (Yahoo! CEO) suggested may be needed for successful startups.”
We’re starting to see leaders like Arianna Huffington laud the benefits of working more efficiently – and the value of living a more balanced life. And while there is no way to totally eliminate stress in the office, companies like Apple, HBO and Nike are focused on employee happiness by offering on-site meditation.
Using the word “busy/stressed” has physical ramifications, too, sending your body into fight or flight mode. Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma and arthritis.
So – busyness could be self-imposed , or a victim of cultural expectations that busy = success vs efficiency = success.
If it is a Bigger, Cultural Issue – Attack the #1 Office Inefficiency: MEETINGS.
In a May 2014 Bain and Co study conducted on time management, findings revealed that on average an organization’s workforce spends about 15% of all collective time sitting in meetings. Few companies have meeting policies in place, and as a result, many meetings are not only unproductive, but can become an ongoing joke with staff.
Here are 7 ways to flip your busyness into your bitch, and accelerate your business.
- P^6: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance – Establish an agenda in the invite so that everyone has clear expectations of what will be presented or reviewed and what the key objectives or takeaways will be. This way, people can gauge appropriateness if their attendance truly is required, as well.
- If there is a presentation or materials to reference, circulate them a day ahead of time. Spend little time presenting in the meeting, and use the time to discuss and review the topics, together. That’s why you’re having a meeting, right? To drive collective alignment so that everyone, and in turn, the company is more successful? Otherwise, it is just a lecture. If you just need to update everyone, stick to email or share on a team tool like Lync, Slack or other group communication tools.
- Monotask – Being so busy in a meeting that you are responding to emails – isn’t helping yourself or the team. Nothing is worse than having to “bring someone up to speed” who was in the meeting, or revisit a decision in the final hour that was already discussed. It’s also pretty rude to the person holding the meeting, who expects your full awareness and participation as critical as they have spent time to prepare (see above).
- Black Out – I’m not talking about what happens after chugging a few glasses of pinot on an empty stomach because you forgot to eat lunch because you were in back-to-back meetings and worked through. But I actually kinda am. If you find your busyness is a bit out of your control, and you’re in meeting overload, schedule blocks of time on your calendar to go through emails, breathe, meditate, eat, listen to a podcast. Whatever you need to refresh and remain energized throughout the day. Schedule you.
We know there are a lot of meetings, and it is important to drive collective alignment – we also know there is room for improvement in terms of meeting efficacy. Additionally, there is a large volume of emails and things can change very quickly from the start of the thread to 4 hours later, especially in the start-up world, learning/trials in real-time and amplifying those successes (or pivoting as needed).
Over the next few months, we’re piloting a no-meeting window (creating or attending meetings). This is to ensure we’re collectively all available to meet as a group to block and tackle any issues in real-time, hold this time to batch for brainstorms, etc. This will also reduce email volume and drive better communication/clarity. While exceptions may be needed, we truly want to maintain this Black Out period as best possible.
It’s Not You, It’s Me – When You’re Busyness is Self-Imposed (but congrats, awareness is the first step!)
- Change Your Perspective – Let’s look at the facts. You’re likely engaged in a professional relationship where you are exchanging your services for something that you find of value, like that cold hard cash, or rare-to-come-by experiences. If you were your boss, would you expect to fully pay someone only partially committed to the cause? No? So as a salaried employee, it is a reasonable expectation that you are giving your services for the compensation received.
But take a second to pause – when using the word busy, do you really mean your day is intentionally full and abundant (with experience, or compensation)? Well hot damn – you’re controlling your own destiny! Here are 10 words to use other than busy.
- Peaks and Valleys – sometimes shit does get real, and busy times are unavoidable. Depending on your industry this could be around specific times of the day, or perhaps of the year (financial industry and tax season, retail folks and Holiday).
Set a mini-milestones. U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, a NAVY Seal who was 1 of 19 men entering Afghanistan that were ambushed by the Taliban, was the only one to leave alive, the Lone Survivor. But one of his key tactics to ensure survival was setting mini milestones. Crawling til safety for 7-8 miles, he would draw a line in the sand, cross it, throw the rock and cross it again.
A coworker of mine? Likes to write key initiatives on post-its and then ceremoniously rip them up when complete. Celebrate the wins.
I’m also a big fan of the Blue Sky concept, a foundational practice of Buddhism that guides you to a sense of stillness and quiet within yourself, regardless of the situation. In the most basic terms, the sky is always blue. There may be clouds, but the clouds pass, and the sky is still there.
- e’re All Humans – And Everyone Has Shitty Moments
Sometimes, it can be difficult to take feedback seriously, but not personally. It can also be equally tough to not take a comment personally, that is simply the end result of someone else’s bad day.
The key is to remember that there is a shared experience in being human. Sometimes, we think we might be the only people going through something. Or feeling a particular a way (so busy/stressed). And that can difficult. An easy fix – change your perspective. Of course easier typed than done, and it isn’t to downplay those feelings, but to understand that everyone is human and while not at the same time, experiences those same feelings. We all share those moments of happiness and joy, or time to time – feeling anger, overwhelmed or in pain. When we remember that – this can help us release and find a bit more balance.
I know first-hand it is exhausting “being busy” – as a reformed (ok, work in progress) self-diagnosed technophile and workaholic, I’ve been there. I had an “always on” mentality and thought working 80 to 90 hours per week was critical to my professional success in marketing.
I also know that I, in my core, love to work. But as a Manager, I don’t want to push my personal preferences on to my team. So, even though I may be working longer days and hours, I try not to send emails before 8 am or after 8 pm. We’re going to pilot “blacking out” as a team to
These tips and reference points, in addition to adding tools to help what I need for balance, like meditation and proper exercise and eating habits, have beefed up my professional arsenal. And a better me, means a better we (colleague, partner, boss, etc).
There is no work-life balance, there is just life.