How busy clouds your focus on the key decision: urgent vs. important.
Everyone is busy these days. Busy equates to effort. Too little time. Less people helping me. Too many projects. Too many competitors. Juggling too many balls. People make themselves busy as proof of value or to ensure they are in the know.
Busy distorts a key choice we face – on what to focus. The focus on what is urgent versus what is important. It’s hard enough to balance the urgent without forgetting the important. Being busy creates urgency for the wrong reasons. Worse, busy seems to cloud (and worse, postpone) any decision or discussion on what is important. Important should be the key determinant of focus. But busy means we put off things, we do other things and we end up doing them poorly – under the guise of being busy.
Yet it matters to us all. Whether as a leader or a manager. As a core team member or one of the troops. As an organisation or an individual. Identifying the important isn’t something you do annually. Defining the important isn’t something you do in isolation. Agreeing the important can’t be something to do in a hurry.
But busy gets in the way. In business, how often do we have meetings about meetings? How often do people sit in meetings and not contribute but insist they “have” to be there? How often do you see presentations with 200 slides – that people have been busy putting together? How many times do you hear people are too busy to talk?
Often, as people busy themselves to keep up with the day to day needs; they end up running to keep still. They expand their time on doing repetitive things and lose any focus on the why they need to do things. Busy doing what you did before usually means you are adding to the urgency tomorrow. By increasing the urgent, you forget to prioritise the important. This makes you busier still.
The important thing is not to forget the important. Plan a 5 minute break as an individual or as a team (or preferably both!) to remind you what is important. Start with a blank post it, a pencil with your morning coffee. Write down the important in a sentence. Put it on the wall. Email the sentence to you. Put it on your phone. Share it with your busy colleagues or families. Let the important guide you. If the important is changing or adapting, then plan a longer session in the next 24 hours. Let the important dictate the urgent rather than busy cloud both.
The important should be discussed often. The important should be all a leader discussers. But today, even our leaders are often too busy to simply focus on the important and how it changes. The important decides how to prioritse, how to accomplish goals and keep making a difference.