The problem with being over-busy is that you might actually get more done. But this only lasts for a brief period of time at the beginning. But invariably the rushing/exhausted pace leads to bad decisions and the inability to make judgments about what is really important. This is the lesson I am trying to work out in my own life.
Here is more fuel for the fire on this whole discussion:
“If I take some time off – on a holiday, over the weekend, or even just not checking mail in the evening after closing time – my decisions get better. I don’t just keep grinding it out, trying to get strategic by processing ever more detail. I start to notice what is really important so I can leave the rest, or delegate it to someone more qualified or more motivated to do that thing.
“When running at full tilt I don’t even have time to think of passing it off to others. I’ve seen this over and over again in my work with people leading teams. Things are stuck not because there is no one to do them, but because the person who has them on their plate doesn’t have (or take) the time to clarify who should be doing them.”
Source: You Can’t Slow Things Down by Speeding Up – Next Action Associates
I was reading some old journal entries. This is a great practice that helps put our blessings and struggles in perspective over the long haul. Too often I exaggerate the severity of the average crisis and forget the many blessings. Anyway, I came across something that I wrote last year during a time of exhaustion. At that moment I was trying to unravel why I have such a hard time resting and so often tend towards busyness and burnout. Reading this old entry was helpful for me, and perhaps it will encourage you.
“Why do we like/love the burnout trail? Being busy makes us feel important or even superior.
This level of busyness [to the point of exhaustion and burnout] though hard in the long run is emotionally easier in the short run Than:
- Defining priorities
- Saying no to people and risking their disappointment
- Facing the fear of missing out
- Disciplining myself to follow through on decisions and priorities
- Doing the hard work of thinking ahead about calendar issues
- Investing in people and giving them feedback”
I was struck at how often frenetic busyness is the way I avoid the really challenging and important emotional work that needs to be done. God help me to grow!
Seth Godin is the master of the short blog post. And that is refreshing! I follow his blog by email and have read several of his books. He always has a unique angle on things. This post was really enjoyable, and I read it out loud to my wife. I thought I would share it with you here. If you don’t get his stuff, wander over to his site and sign up.
BTW, in addition to his blog he is always working on cool projects. I listened to his entrepreneur “Start UP School” podcast a while ago and was challenged. Find it here:
“Bilbo Baggin’s great quote about being stretched thin (“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”) reveals a profound truth:
Most individuals and organizations complain of not having enough butter. We need more resources, we say, to cover this much territory. We need more (time/money/staff) to get the job done.
What happens if instead of always seeking more butter, we find the discipline to cover less bread?
Spreading our butter too thin is a form of hiding. It helps us be busy, but makes it unlikely we will make an impact.
It turns out that doing a great job with what we’ve got is the single best way to get a chance to do an even better job with more, next time.”
Source: Seth’s Blog: Is it too little butter, or too much bread?
This is a list of discussion questions to help work through the content of the book “Essentialism” By Greg McKeown.
Download a pdf of the questions that is more friendly for journaling here: Essentialism Questions Ch. 4
- Every decision is a trade off. Since we can’t have it all, choosing one thing is not choosing another.
- What trade off do I want to make? How can I do this deliberately rather than by default?
- What can I go big on? Rather than “how can I do it all?” or “What do I have to give up?”
- You need time and space to adequately consider the tradeoffs before you.
- Southwest airlines deliberately rejecting certain options so they could focus on their core business.
- Businesses that choose a straddling strategy. Trying to imitate a competitor while keeping their old strategy doesn’t work.
- Johnson and Johnson’s response to the Tylenol cyanide crisis.
- Businesses with lengthy mission statements or lists of values.
- The chapter opens by talking about the financial success of Southwest Airlines which is an example of a business with an essentialist strategy. Southwest said “no” to many things so they could focus on their strategy. What does this suggest about the promise of essentialism?
- A person that is chronically late and stressed is often trying to fit in “just one more” email or action item. This has a domino effect on other important things. What insignificant things are you attempting in the name of “efficiency” that are undermining your focus?
- Are there tasks/responsibilities that are a part of your routine just because they seem easy for you to accomplish? Are there things that you are doing that are not a priority, but that you don’t quit because they are not difficult?
- We often multitask when we fail to recognize the reality of trade offs. What happens when you multitask? What trade offs are you making? What are you giving up? What are you gaining?
- There is a difference between making trade offs deliberately vs. by default. Think of a significant disappointment in your life/business. Was there a tradeoff in your choices? Was it one that you made intentionally or that you allowed others to make?
- McKeown suggests that lengthy mission statements and lists of values show the failure to grapple with the reality of trade offs. Have you seen this? Do you agree or disagree?
- The nonessentialist says “I can do it all,” the essentialist says, “which problem do I want?” What problems are you facing because of your attempts to do too much?
- Think of a choice that is in front of you right now. Consider the options and ask “which problem do I want?” This will require you to think of the potential outcomes of saying yes to various possibilities. Reflect on this.
- McKeown says, “instead of asking ‘what do I have to give up?’ ask ‘what do I want to go big on?’” Think of an upcoming personal decision and use these two questions to analyze it. Make a list. How does each approach affect your feelings about the decision?
- We often feel guilt because of FOMO, “fear of missing out.” How can being deliberate about your choices help with these feelings of fear or guilt?
- In order to make tradeoffs wisely we have to take lots of time for exploration and reflection before we commit. Consider a recent life decision. Did you have time to truly explore the various options before choosing? Why? Why not?
- Mckeown says, “To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.” What grabs you the most about this statement?
- Why do we need this “space” in order to make decisions based on “highly selective criteria?”
Photo courtesy of Daniel Oines. Some rights reserved