Too Busy, Important or Urgent?
Whether you work from home or from an office, you may go through phases where you feel there are just not enough hours in the day.
No matter how many ‘to do’ lists or plans you fill in you can’t seem to cater for the unexpected ‘urgent’ thing.
For me I believe there’s also a few hidden ‘pay offs’ for keeping up this state of busyness and I admit, I’ve been guilty of them. I am hoping these tips will help you step into calm and control rather than fear and fire-fighting in your business.
Step 1: Stop Rewarding ‘Busyness’.
We live in a culture (in the UK/USA) where being busy and working long hours appears to be more important than the results you deliver.
Just look at the meeting syndrome:
How many meetings does it take to make you feel important?
How many of those meetings are really necessary and generate quantifiable results?
If you have a meeting and you don’t move forward how do you judge the meeting to be successful and important?
How often do you feel that working long hours gives an impression that you are doing something important and worthwhile, therefore you are important and worthwhile?
Has ‘Busyness’ Become Who You Are?
What if you had all of your needs taken care of and had an abundance of money and were told you couldn’t legally work?
What would you do with your time?
How would you feel about your own sense of importance?
I found myself in exactly this situation a few years ago when I moved to Tanzania with my partner. I was not allowed to work. The company my partner worked with provided accommodation and meals and paid a salary. I found myself being very uncomfortable in this situation. It was the first time I hadn’t worked and there was no ‘need’ to work.
Sounds like paradise and it can be depending upon what your beliefs around who you are and why you are doing what you are doing are.
So ask yourself, how would you really feel? What would come up for you?
Has ‘busy’ become part of who you are, tied in with your sense of identity?
What do we mean by Important and Urgent?
Step 2: Manage What’s Important
Important things are those that are going to get us the greatest result in the long run and where the consequences of not taking action results in ‘Fire fighting’ or negative impacts on ourselves and those around us.
Important things include the foundations of looking after your health and well-being, taking time for your family and relationships and doing what is important in all key areas of your life so that there is a level of balance.
Ensuring that the important things are taken care of in plenty of time before they become urgent, allows you to avoid fire fighting.
This allows you to create calm and take more control of your life. It also allows you to create time for the unexpected and allocate enough time to ensure you meet your commitments (assuming you don’t over commit yourself to begin with).
What is your strategy for dealing with the important things in your life? How much priority do you give to important things? How many times do you break commitments because something more important/urgent has arisen (e.g. school concerts)?
Can you see how this can be avoided with a more long-term, big picture perspective?
Step 3: Prevent Things Becoming Urgent
Urgent is when we believe something should be done now. This can be anything from answering your ringing phone, constantly checking your emails just in case that one person has responded, speaking to people who drop by your office, making it to that meeting just in case you miss something.
But how many of these thing are actually important and will get you result?
And now there is mobile technology and social media to add to the mix.
Do you know the purpose of that post on Facebook?
What result/objective are you working towards with your posts?
Technology has provided many guises of busyness.
As mobile technology has taken over maybe it truly is time to stop and audit your self-discipline in this regard. I know I have.
Who is more important, the client in front of you or the text that’s just come through on your phone?
Which one do you react to?
And your family.
How important is that text in the middle of a birthday celebration?
What about that notification from messenger?
What did you do when this technology wasn’t around?
What you can do…
- Switch your phone off for a certain portion of the day so you can uninterruptedly focus on the important.
- Research shows it takes an average of 20 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted. How many interruptions do you allow during your focus time?
- Check your email at certain times of the day (a maximum of 3 times) and not first thing in the morning.
- First thing – get the most important task complete!
How to Take Back Control...
Important and Urgent
If something is important and urgent it is often because you didn’t act on the ‘important’ long ago and it is have moved into the urgent category. This often moves you in to fire fighting mode and means you have less time and less attention time to give to the matter.
Many people live in this zone as it fulfils those pay offs of being busy and feeling important. It is also a challenge that once you live in this zone to change it, but it can be done.
If you would like help with any of the topics covered here why not email me to arrange a Free 20 minute consultation (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How to take control of your personal performance
Use simple strategies such as:
- Learn to say ‘no’
- Take control of your internet use
- Take control of your mobile and telephone use
- Take control of your email
- Take control of your meetings and scheduling
- Learn how to prioritise
- Use technology to manage your time rather than as an interruption
- Decide what’s important and schedule the important, keeping to your commitments