I’ve been busy — too busy to even write this blog!
Really… yes… it’s been 7 months since I managed to put together a newsletter. What happened between February and October? Did I travel around the world? Give birth? Take a sabbatical? No — I just got busy.
You know what I mean. Days fill up with commitments, travelling, phone calls and meetings. You set time aside for thinking and someone hi-jacks the precious time for a crisis. Then you are back on the treadmill telling yourself you will feel on top of things by the end of the week.
I name this busy-ness with a sense of shame. As coach who works with people on just such an issue, I feel should know better.
The upside of being busy has meant I’ve done a lot of work I love doing over the last few months with inspiring and committed people. My bank balance looks healthier than at the beginning of the year. I have more flyer miles. The downside is that I miss my friends and the nourishment I gain from those relationships. My fitness regime has gone out the window. I’m behind on my Netflix binge list. And my sales pipeline sucks.
There seems to be something uniquely complex about being middle-aged — however you define that number — where the convergence of responsibilities for children, ageing parents, the commitment to the mortgage, and a real grown up career become overwhelming. It’s that black swan moment where you realise you’ve said yes to all of this life and now there isn’t enough space for youin your own life.
Early year, I took on some fun and challenging work with a startup. I realized how much time I spent thinking about this company and its people. I’d find myself waking up with thoughts and ideas of what to do next, or after I’d clocked off for the day, mulling over a concern I’d discussed with the CEO.
People aren’t lying when they claim busy-ness. But the sense of busy-ness comes not only from the things we do but about how much time we spend thinkingabout the things we need to do.
We are always on in this digital world. Very few people I know segment work and play. Work feels like it never ends and our addiction to the devices that enable this doesn’t help. Busy has become a symptom of our new digital age. It is one that doesn’t serve us and we could do without.
So since my magic wand has gone missing, I offer you the next best thing — four exercises to help you reflect on your busy-ness and hopefully empower you to make some different choices.
1. The Urgent Important matrix. Covey’s timeless chart on what’s important versus what’s urgent can take us back to basics.
2. The Start, Stop, continue exercise– complete this with yourself and your team. This is a simple exercise that I do with teams once they’ve worked out their plan of work for the coming months. There is huge enthusiasm in the room for the ‘new stuff’ and this exercise brings in some cool reality of what needs to change in order to create space for the new stuff. Simply create three columns entitled Start, Stop and Continue. Fill out with as many actions/responsibilities you have that could be stopped, need to start, or should continue.
3. Plot how you use your time– make decisions accordingly. A friend recently shared that she had done some analysis on where her time was going, and she’d realized a single organisation was taking up a disproportionate amount of her time and not paying for it. She’d known this intuitively but was amazed by the size of the issue. She has since changed the relationship with this organisation.
4. Find a thinking space. We need to actively seek out spaces where we can think be that with a coach, trusted advisor, or structured peer groups. As the old Zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Part of the disease of busy-ness is that it sneaks up on us and these thinking spaces can be ways to prevent and preserve the pattern and pace of you life that serves you.
Let’s find those hours together.
We are all just works in progress after all.