You might be going through a period of ‘self-imposed busyness’ because you’re not being proactive, you’re not saying no and you’re not prioritising, but you’re not actually busy.
Being busy is a myth.
Put it this way, if you were to get a phone call in the next 10 minutes asking you to help in any of the following scenarios, would you find the time to be there today?
Your friend has just broken up with her boyfriends of five years and she wants to go out for a drink after work.
Your Gran has fallen and she’s shaken up. A visit from you would comfort her.
A junior member of your team has made a mistake on a key account. She doesn’t know how to fix it.
We both know you would make the time to be there, so why are you pretending you’re busy?
You’ll notice that each of the scenarios I gave is asking you to stop what you’re doing and put someone else’s needs before your own. The scenarios I’ve created are deliberately provocative and ‘no-brainers’ when it comes to whether you would drop everything and be there, but I have no doubt that there will be smaller, more subtle examples of other people distracting you from your personal goals every day.
We all think we’re busy for a multitude of reasons…
Do any of these examples sound familiar?
My manager is always assigning more tasks to me and my workload has spiralled out of control
I said I would help a friend with a charity fundraiser she’s organising
Mum asked me if I could host Sunday lunch for the family this weekend
A client has brought forward the reporting deadline by a week
At what point in any of these examples did you prioritise someone else’s needs over your own?
At what point did you react to the things being thrown at you instead of proactively sticking to what you had planned for your time?
At what point did you say yes when you could’ve said no?
You had the option to say no when you were asked to do each and every one of these things, but you didn’t.
The thought of saying no can be scary and that’s the main reason most of us find ourselves over-committed in all areas of our lives. Something that feels easier is to start a conversation, and the way you do this is by asking questions.
Your manager delegates yet another task to you…
You say: Please can you let me know how this new task fits in with the other projects I’m working on? Would you like this to take priority? If so, what are the new deadlines for my outstanding tasks now that this is to take precedent?
Your friend asks for your help with a charity fundraiser she’s organising…
You say: I’d love to help you with this; it’s such a good cause! I’ll be able to spend two hours on this over the next week, so please can you let me know what I can do to help in that time?
Your Mum asks you to host Sunday lunch for the family this weekend…
You say: I’m going to struggle to do a food shop and get the house ready to host Sunday lunch this week, because I’m working to a couple of tight deadlines at work and I’m helping a friend organise a charity event. Please can I host Sunday lunch in a few weeks when all that’s out of the way? (If you can’t be honest with your mum then who can you?!)
Your client has brought forward the reporting deadline by a week…
You say: Thank you for letting me know that you would like to see the results a week earlier. We will, of course, do everything we can to accommodate this, but it would be great if you could work with us to identify the sections we should prioritise. Please can you let us know what information is usually included in your Board presentations? We will work on this analysis and make sure you have it by end of play Friday. We then will send the remaining data across as per the previously agreed timeline. Please can you let me know if this works on your side?
By beginning a conversation and asking questions, you are able to share what is realistically feasible for you to accomplish in any given timeframe, and you also clearly identify what is expected of you.
It’s a great way to ease that feeling of busyness you’re experiencing!
You’ll begin to realise that you do have a choice in every situation, and by speaking to those around you, you can understand what you need to prioritise without feeling like you have to do everything all at once.
How can you employ the tactic of questioning to examples that are occurring in your life right now? If you’re stuck, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you with ideas on how to approach it.