I've been lately visiting London and being busy and trying to be highly effective is visible there even in jogging. People run there really fast! I go for a jog there quite often and I'm always the slowest runner on the street. It shouldn't be because of my shape, since I should be in an OK shape with few triathlons done in the past years.
My personal learning from few years ago is that I'm most ineffective when I'm busy. When my calendar is full or I'm trying to tackle it all, that's the point I'm not getting much value done. I do run around doing things, but being busy and being effective are two totally different things. It's easy to be busy, and it's hard to be effective.
Once in a while I notice that I'm lacking time to do all the things I'm planning to. That's the point I get ineffective. I've got better to notice this in myself and I've learned to prioritize. I do have a mission statement written to myself and I like to read that one then, to remind myself about priorities in life and work. After reading those I do go through all my to be done things and always find something to set aside. There are always things you can leave undone and some things you can do later.
It takes courage to say no to someone. To say that I don't believe the thing you are asking from me is more important than the thing I'm working on. Specially when you have a supervisor who is asking. But this one skill, is one of the most important skill you will or will not learn during your career. The most effective people are the ones who can say no and have empty slots in their calendar.
There's also the other side of wanting to be busy. As young kids learn bad habits from older "cool kids", the same way newcomers in organizations learn to admire busyness from their more experienced peers. Being busy is disease in many of the organizations. Being busy is too often thought to be an indication of being important.
Being busy is always a selection. There might be days everyone needs to work in the busy mode, but that should be an exceptional state, not a standard way of working. Being busy is always a selection, always.
The reason why I'm worried about people being busy is that being busy affects to all of us. Busy people are unhappier and unhealthier. Organizations are less effective with busy people. It might sound an overstatement but we all lose money and affect each others happiness by being busy. We ruin our organizations and life environment with being busy. Being busy is a real disease.
I start to sound quite hippy saying all of these, but I can assure that I personal interest behind all of this: I really do hate busy unhappy people.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen