You Being Busy is Counterproductive

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How comfortable are you being idle?

As a high achieving woman, you might dream of utter relaxation. But the internal and external pressure to stay productive and highly efficient might sabotage your attempts to take a break.

While action is required to achieve results, action without strategy, reflection, and rest can result in needless activity and wasted time.

This episode covers why always being busy is counterproductive and keeping you from achieving your biggest goals.

How Busy Kills the Super-Strategy of Rest

When you give over to busyness, you throw away one of the best tools you have for being productive, happy, and protecting yourselves from burnout. rest.

To do more meaningful work and become more creative and productive, you need to take a step away from always being on. The modern workplace is hectic but only if we let it be.

When things at work start moving fast, we typically do exactly what makes the situation worse. Instead of stepping back, most of us push harder. As a consequence, we end up doing more and working harder than we needed to.

What Causes Business

The lure to be busy may come from being understaffed with a big unexamined workload or from undeveloped time-management skills.

Could there be a benefit to you stay in the experience of being busy? Being busy might make you feel in control or worthy. Or you might use busy as a way to avoid reflection and coming face-to-face with what isn’t working.

Ironically, being busy makes us feel good. We check boxes, we answer tons of emails. Others may see and respect us for the enormous workload we’ve taken on.

Busy is a Trap

Busy perpetuates busy and becomes a fast-track to burnout.

When we become busy our minds become hyper-focused on the most immediate work. Think meetings, emails, and being a sounding board. 

Consider the workload your organization. How much time do you and your colleagues spend in meetings, on the phone, and responding to e-mails?

One study published in the Harvard Business Review showed that at many companies, employees were spending about 80% of their time on these mundane tasks.

This ultimately leaves them very little time for the critical work they need to complete on their own. “Performance suffers as they are buried under an avalanche of requests for input or advice, access to resources, or attendance at a meeting.”

They are left with the option of working at night and on weekends to complete their critical work on time, push off the deadline, or a blending of both. In this environment burnout and turnover become real risks.

Is your company experiencing any burnout or deadline delays? Business might be a factor in that phenomenon.

When we are super busy everything feels like it’s on fire and needs our immediate attention. Have you ever had that experience? When you can’t decide what to do first because it all seems critical?

Distinction Between Busy and Productive

Part of the problem with being busy is the perception that when someone is busy, they are productive. But on closer examination are not.

There are four distinctions between busy and being productive.

  • Busy has a frantic energy to it, while being productive is focused.
  • Being busy is fueled by perfectionism, while being productive is fueled by purpose.
  • Being busy is about working more or harder, while being productive is about working efficiently.
  • Being busy is about needing to do and be good at everything, while being productive is about being great at a few key things.

Solutions to Neutralize Busywork

First, be very clear on the dangers of being busy.

Know what the experience of busy is for you. What are the thoughts, feelings you experience when you are very busy. What are the consequences to you and others when you get really busy.

Second, be honest with yourself and others.

Identify what can and cannot get done. Do you need to say no or set boundaries around what you will or will not do? Can you delegate, hire or outsource any work? Can you not attend all the meetings?

*If you are feeling triggered by these suggestions let’s talk. This is at the root of the experience you are having.

Third, intentionally plan your time.

Break up your day by activity. You want time for focused work, time for collaboration (think meetings and email), and time for rest and reflection tied with strategic analysis. This gives you the time to both move things forward and take a step back and evaluate if your time is being used effectively.

Also, I want to make the case for reflection. Mind-wandering and day dreaming have benefits to creativity, productivity and focus. Allowing your mind to wander during your reflective time cultivates new solutions and ideas and boosts your focused time.

You can also induce mind-wandering by intentionally engaging in mundane tasks. Think cleaning, organizing, and ordinary chores. It’s usually when we are in the shower, brushing our teeth, or walking the dog that we get hits of inspiration. This is because these are the times that we are not trying to accomplish anything that takes focused brain power. As long as you put your phone aside during these times, it allows the other parts of the brain to fire up.

The key is to allow yourself to get relaxed and get a little bored by what you are doing.

Lastly, Get Clear on When Work Stops

Having a clear distinction between work and non-work times is critical. This was an issue before the pandemic but with work-from-home and hybrid work models, the lines have become even more blurred. This also lends to that “always on” experience. Set a time to stop and, barring an emergency (and be clear what an emergency means), log out of all work devices.

It may help to have a ritual if you don’t have one baked into your life already. You may have commitments that make it clear when your workday ends, like picking your children up from school. If this is not the case for you, create a ritual.

Maybe you change your clothes and do a workout. Maybe you change into super casuals or even your pajamas. Starting dinner or being in the garden might do it for you. Having something that clearly signals to your mind and body that the workday is done will support you in having a clear distinction between work and non-work.

If you need help with this, let’s chat!

If your last promotion left you feeling unstable in your leadership role, or you are looking to develop into your next role, I invite you to consider working with me. You will be support you through the transition, and confident in your leadership once again. Schedule a meeting to chat with me.

Going to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach? This checklist will help you to prepare for that conversation.

As always, I hope this was of value to you, and here’s to your success!


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