Considering the experience and competence of leaders, their position and influence, their authority, the resources that they command, too many spend their time making the routine happen, instead of investing their time and energy into those few significant things that will create the organisation’s future. They fail to take advantage of the opportunities they have to make a real difference. One of the key reasons is that leaders find themselves distracted by busyness.
What is busyness? Simply put, busyness is a when we have a lot of work. It’s the drug of the 21st century. Busyness happens when we react to what’s in front of us, without stopping to consider if it matters or not. We get caught up in the urgency of the moment, soon it becomes a habit and before we know it we end up busy. We become trapped in the urgent. Leaders fall into the busyness habit when they allow weeks and months drift by, attending numerous meetings and drifting from activity to activity without stopping to consider if what they’re doing is making any difference.
My favourite quote “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker.
You become busy when you mistake activity for productivity, when you mistake efficiency for effectiveness and when you mistake more for better. You become busy when you ask “What’s next?” rather then stopping to consider “Why this?”. Busyness kills leadership as:
- Busyness is fake work, it has the appearance of work, but doesn’t deliver results.
- Busyness gets you doing unnecessary work. When unnecessary work is done time is wasted.
- Busyness is seductive as it makes you feel important.
- Busyness traps you into using your time and energy for doing good work rather than investing it in your great work.
- Busyness robs you of the capacity needed to reflect and to think deeply about important issues and decisions of the day.
- Busyness keeps you reacting rather than responding and initiating.
“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” ― Peter Drucker
Busyness kills leaders as it causes them to spend time and energy on good work rather than on accomplishing great work. Leaders need to focus relentlessly on what’s required to make a meaningful difference.
You cannot afford to spend your time on what’s urgent, easy and routine. As a leader you need to be effective, to work smarter not harder, to work strategically not frantically with lots of activity and limited results.
Busy leaders are quick to tell you how busy they are, they wear their busyness like a badge of honour. It’s like being busy means you’re important, that you matter. However as leaders we need to avoid frantic activity, activity that on the surface looks like productivity, but is really just busy work. Busyness has become such a large part of current corporate culture that we often loose sight of how our efforts contribute to what matters.
Effectiveness requires focus and you cannot spread yourself thin trying to do too much. You need to say no to the urgent and yes to your great work. Busyness is the opposite of effective leadership. If your day is filled with things to do then it’s too fill. Don’t confuse activity with effectiveness. Don’t confuse busy work or even good work with great works. It’s the job of the leader to focus on accomplishing great work.
“Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first – and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.” - Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive
If you’re not careful busyness will quietly take over your life without you even being aware of it. Leaders are often not aware of the extent to which busyness has taken control of their life. So you may be asking how do I know if I am in a busyness trap? Well, the following warning signs are strong indicators that you’re in a busyness trap.
- A lack of clarity as to what constitutes great work.
- Doing what does not need to be done.
- Allow the agenda and priorities of others to set your agenda and what’s considered important.
- Allowing urgent events and interruptions to distract you from the important.
- Attending meetings where your participation is not necessary.
- Not enough time set aside to think and reflect.
- Meetings that don’t achieve anything.
- Too busy to set time aside necessary to make important decisions.
- A lack of systems so you find yourself reacting and reinventing decision making processes.
- Are you in a busyness trap?
- What are the few major areas that define your great work?
- What do you need to stop doing so you can give more attention to the your great work?