5 ways you can bust busyness for good

- June 21, 2021 3 MIN READ

“I’m Busy”. “You must be so Busy?” “How Busy is it right now?” Do we even think before we say these frequently spoken words? When did busy become a thing, a throwaway line, a badge of honour, a suit of armour, our identity or even some conscious or unconscious form of protection?

With terms such as, ‘doing more with less’ becoming more frequent, and the ongoing organisational activities such as restructures, redundancies and combining roles come into the busyness epidemic, is it any wonder that some use busyness as a survival strategy? Getting invited to back-to-back meetings, whilst regularly complained about, may well be the very thing that humans desire in order to feel important, relevant, needed and above all things, ‘busy’.

How to stop being busy and become productive

In her article called ‘The Disease of Being Busy’, Sonja van den Bosch states that technology is partly to blame and the lines between work and home have become blurred. These include television, emails, text messages, social media, never-ending notifications pinging on every device you own.

With work from home now becoming a big part of our lives, has anyone stopped to take into account how this has actually impacted on how ‘busy’ humans are?

According to the Microsoft Worklab Work Trend Index, there are some worrying trends on more meetings and longer hours that all impact upon our busyness:

  • Weekly meetings are up 148%
  • There are 3x more emails sent than prior to the pandemic
  • We are working on average an extra 48 minutes per day

It all adds up to giving us permission to suit up in that armour and throw the ‘B’ word around to protect us from the truth.

Dr Michael Marmot, a British epidemiologist, found there are two types of busyness. The most damaging is busyness without control, which mostly affects the disadvantaged in our communities, and the busyness we control. The latter is the sickness we bring to ourselves; Self-created stress.

So, how can we all get control of busyness, drop the armour, lose the identity as a ‘busy fool’ a badge of honour and throwaway line?

As a leadership consultant and at times self-confessed ‘busy fool’, I suggest these three approaches to busting busyness:

Change Your Language

If you are using the ‘B’ word without giving it another thought, you are inviting others to do the same. When someone asks you “How are you?”, or says “You must be so busy?” use another word, and watch the look of amazement you get. Try saying ‘I’m really productive, thanks for asking”. It’s a great way to bring some awareness to the throwaway line busy has become. Just be ready for people thinking you’ve lost your mind as you’re supposed to be busy.

Set Personal Boundaries

With WFH becoming a part of how we work, it is critical to set some boundaries around work scheduling, self, family time and getting enough sleep. It’s becoming so easy to just check a few emails in the bedroom office or sit there in front of the PC and realise three hours has gone by without you even giving it a thought. It’s important to stick to a plan and even share it with a colleague to keep each other accountable. Oh, and saying “no” every now and then also works!

Stop Doing Mindless Meetings and Reports

You know that meeting you had to talk about the last meeting where nothing was achieved. Just stop it! If you’re not making decisions, stop having mindless meetings. The same goes for those ‘critical’ reports that nobody reads but you keep churning out because ‘we’ve always done that’. You’re a certified busy fool.

Less Emails (particularly CCs)

The email has become the best friend of the busy fool, particularly the type who ‘cc’s the world’. Ring any bells for you? Before you copy in everyone in the organisation to either feel important or cover your arse, just think of the extra work this creates. Then stop it.

Be Honest with Yourself

This is the hardest of them all as it involves dropping the armour. Busyness is a choice and you need to hold up the mirror and ask yourself the following question – “Why am I choosing busyness?” You may not like the answer as the layers of armour and protection will be stripped in the process. Your choice of being a busy fool is anchored to your perception of what could happen if you aren’t busy. Stop hiding behind it.

How does ‘busyness’ show up for you?

If being busy is your armour, what might it be protecting you from?

Are you productive, busy or a busy fool?

What’s your answer?

It’s time to shed the armour.

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