Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are

This post really hit home with me.  Over the past few years, I have focused intensely on managing time.  I suffered from the misconception that busyness meant business.  It doesn't.  If you are too busy for your work, your family, your faith, yourself... then something is wrong.  

Take time to read the article below then find resources to help you get control of your time. There is no more valuable asset.  It is irreplaceable, limited and manageable.  Don't fall victim to the belief that being busy means you are getting the right things done in your life and your business.

by Meredith Fineman

We're all just so "busy" these days. "Slammed" in fact. "Buried." Desperately "trying to keep our heads above water." While these common responses to "How are you?" seem like they're lifted from the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, there seems to be a constant exchange, even a a one-upping, of just how much we have on our plates when we communicate about our work. 

My favorite "busy" humble-brag was that of a potential client who apologized for lack of communication due to a "week-long fire drill." What does that even mean? Does this mean there were fake fires, but not real ones, all week? Does calling it a "drill" mean that everything is okay? Is your business in flames? Should I call someone?

Then there was the date I had with a fellow who was so busy "crashing on deadlines" that he asked me to "just make a reservation somewhere" for him. I was floored. 

So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that "I'm busier than you are" means I'm more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am "winning" at some never-finished rat race to Inbox Zero. (Inbox Zero is another absurd contest to tackle at another time.) What you're trying to say with these responses is: I'm busier, more in-demand, more successful. 

Here's the thing: it's harming how we communicate, connect, and interact. Everyone is busy, in different sorts of ways. Maybe you have lots of clients, or are starting a new business, or are taking care of a newborn. The point is this: with limited time and unlimited demands on that time, it's easy to fill your plate with activities constantly. But this doesn't mean that you should. 

To assume that being "busy" (at this point it has totally lost its meaning) is cool, or brag-worthy, or tweetable, is ridiculous. By lobbing these brags, endlessly puffing our shoulders about how "up to my neck" we are, we're missing out on important connections with family and friends, as well as personal time. In addition to having entire conversations about how busy we are, we fail to share feelings with friends and family, ask about important matters, and realize that the "busy" is something that can be put on hold for a little while.

I am not trying to belittle anyone's work-load in the slightest. But in using it as a one-upping mechanism, we're failing to connect in a very substantial way. And we're making the problem worse: When everyone around us is "slammed," it's easy to feel guilty if we're not slaving away on a never-ending treadmill of toil. By trying to compete about it, we're only adding to that pool of water everyone seems to be constantly "treading" in. And all this complaining is having serious effects on our mental health. 

And yet we continue to use long hours as a sort of macho badge of honor.

We need to work smart, not (just) hard.

Just because you clocked 15 hours at your office, with likely dry eyeballs and a complete lack of focus, doesn't mean you've accomplished things in a smart way. Many people have written or spoken about this. Typically, you have 90-120 minutes before you devolve into internet fodder or social media. If you're putting in 15 straight hours at your desk, without breaks, how good is your output? How much time are you wasting?

The distinction between working hard versus smart has hit me as an entrepreneur. In high school and college I was always that girl who read all the assigned reading (and no, I was not giving you my study guide). I created outlines, outlines of outlines, and then flashcards. One of my greatest lessons as a businessperson has been to throw out that skill set. This isn't to say you shouldn't be diligent or that you should half-heartedly execute, but rather, that it's crucial to know what you have to do as opposed to everything you could do. It's about being strategic. 

For once, I'd like to hear someone brag about their excellent time management skills, rather than complain about how much they can't get done. Maybe we could learn something from each other.

In fact, I'll start — here are three tactics I've been using to work smarter:

Constrain the time. The more I constrain my time, the more focused and productive I feel, and the less I waste time on low-priority work. If you can only afford to spend 45 minutes on a certain project, then only spend 45 minutes on it — and move on, even if it isn't perfect.

Use a scheduler. If you're really up to your neck, it's very easy to find a scheduler, virtual or otherwise, to help put things on your calendar. Sometimes it's a matter of freeing up that time used for coordinating plans to actually doing them. Zirtual is a great answer to this. As is the DIY scheduler Doodle.

Cut the fat. Once I cut out superfluous meetings that were not: fun, productive, leading to new business, or really had something wonderful in it for me professional or otherwise, that plate emptied a little bit. (Here's a tool for figuring out what to cut.)

Yes, we all have some strange need to out-misery each other. Acknowledging that is a first step. But next time you speak to a friend and want to lament about how busy you are, ask yourself why. Try steering the conversation away from a complain-off. With some practice you might find yourself actually feeling less "buried" (or at least feeling less of a need to say it all the time).

And maybe that's something worth bragging about.


Meredith Fineman is a publicist and writer living in Washington, DC. She is the founder and principal of FinePoint Digital PR

How leaders spend their time tells staff what they value

By S. Chris Edmonds

When I ask senior leaders how they spend their time in their work environment, they report three things more frequently than any other activities.

  • Meetings with direct reports.
  • Evaluating and analyzing performance data.
  • Addressing performance problems.

Certainly, these are important behaviors for senior leaders. But are these the most beneficial activities senior leaders can engage in? I don’t think so — and will explain in a few paragraphs why.

Why do senior leaders engage in these activities? My experience and research tells me that leader behaviors are driven by three factors: role models from their past, their social style or personality type, and the organization’s culture.

So senior leaders do meetings, analysis of data and address performance problems because they’ve seen those behaviors role modeled by others, the behaviors fit their social style, and the organizational culture reinforces those activities.

Another issue arises as we look at senior leaders’ activities. Their integrity is compromised when their activities — how they spend their time — are inconsistent with what they say is important in their workplace.

For example, senior leaders may say that “people are our most important asset,” yet choose not to delegate authority to team members to act independently in the moment. Senior leaders may say that they have an open-door policy yet spend so much time in meetings and problem-solving discussions that their door is closed or they’re not in their office when a staffer drops by.

In my studies of high performing, values-aligned organizations, a constant is that every senior leader sees his or her role as a “chief culture officer.” They allocate time and energy to proactively manage their most important asset — their corporate culture. Their plans, decisions, and actions are easily seen as being aligned to their stated responsibilities to ensure a safe, inspiring workplace for all.

These leaders take the time to define clear purpose, values, strategy and goals for their organization in today’s world, and they help communicate how staff members contribute to those vital elements.

These leaders invest time in observing by wandering around, connecting one-on-one with frontline team leaders and frontline employees and asking how things are going. “What can we do to make your job easier?” is a common question these leaders ask. As they learn about issues that get in the way, they address those gaps with help from those in-the-know” (frontline team members).

They observe team meetings at all levels of the organization to learn what’s working and what’s not. They praise progress as well as accomplishment — they know that too often effort is ignored.

They spend less time in meetings with direct reports and more time observing their direct reports on the job, helping them praise progress, celebrate traction and value citizenship in their functional groups.

They spend more time helping all leaders and managers learn to effectively address performance issues and misaligned values in their workplace.

On average, these inspiring senior leaders spend 60-70% of their time championing their desired organizational culture, and it pays off beautifully. Our culture clients report gains of 40% in employee engagement, 40% in customer service, and 30% in profits in 18 to 24 months of aligned effort.

What are your activities saying to your team members about what you value? How often do your senior leaders observe by wandering around and connect with you on how things are going? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.