Being Busy is Not Good

I want to challenge a cultural phenomenon; when asked how we are, especially in a work or business context, our positive response is that we’re busy. Now whilst the complete opposite of that is a problem, being busy may not be our most effective state. Being busy is not necessarily good.

Recently the World Health Organisation added burnout to its official list of diseases. The term was first applied as a psychological diagnosis in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger. Which is a splendid name.

According to the W.H.O, “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; feelings of distance, negativity or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy. If you’re too busy for too long, this is you!

So how can we get out of our busy cycle and create an environment around us that is more effective and less time consuming? Not easy is the answer. There are huge demands in today’s fast moving world. We do need to recognise that there are seasons when we have to be a little crazy in the hours and workload we take on. That is a reality. But the key word is seasons.

Lions do two things; they sprint and they sleep. They run hard and smart to catch their prey, and then they sleep. There’s an obvious lesson here. If a lion jogged after an antelope all day, he would catch nothing, eat nothing and be consistently tired. The modulation cycle of sprint and sleep can be applied in both small daily cycles and in longer seasons.

Some of our life stages are seasons in their own right, each with differing priorities. What season are you in; are your priorities right for this specific season?

If you’re building a new business, you’re going to have to hustle. If you want to stay married you’ll have to find a season of investment in that relationship. Children also bring cycles of needs for our attention and time.

So our seasons and our priorities shift and change over our lifetime. Being mindful of where our priorities lie in each of these seasons and recognizing the transition time between seasons, takes some self-reflection, foresight and a bit of wisdom.

Whenever I ask business people about the priorities between love, health and money, they consistently rate relationships and health above income. Yet in reality many of us destroy relationships and health in the pursuit of wealth. Reflecting on that truth and making the necessary adjustments can save us from a lot of pain and heartache.

As leaders our management style can lead to being overly busy. If we need to know everything, micro manage our team and get into details well beyond real necessity, it will be almost impossible to manage our time effectively. Yet, if we manage through empowerment, agreed objectives and create a culture of honour, we can, and will, get great outcomes without working long hours.

Maybe one day we’ll learn to say, in response to “how are you going?”, we’ll say, “not busy at all, and everything is exceptionally good”.


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