Drop the ‘Busy Excuse’!

Are you crazy busy? Flat out? Overworked?

Are you sure? It’s a common refrain from friends — or our own mouths — that we’re too busy and have too much to do. For many, being loaded down with work and other commitments is a badge of honour, a sign of importance.

But should we be glorifying busy?  Are we really overworked or have we just lost focus on the most important elements of our job?

Are we really overworked or have we just lost focus on the most important elements of our job?

BBC Capital recently gathered the thoughts of CEO’s and influential business founders.  Here is what some of them had to say.

Guy Kawasaki, co-founder All-Top, advisor to start-ups

“Our two main metrics for success are money and power, and they drive us to work longer hours, sleep with our phones and tablets, miss important moments with our families, and impact our health,” writes Kawasaki in his post Let’s Stop the Glorification of Busy.

But  it’s possible to make other choices, wrote Kawasaki.  He offered 10 tips from Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post, “for creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.” Among them:

Redefine success. There’s no prize for working the most hours per week or making the most money. At the end of our lives, we’re all about the same amount of dust, so the question is how much joy you’ve brought into people’s lives and how much have you made the world a better place,” he wrote.

Sleep your way to the top. Get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep is associated with health risks and higher stress levels. Every element of your life can be improved by getting the proper amount of sleep,” he wrote.

Find solitude. Meditation helps relieve stress and helps us tap our inner voice. If you don’t like being with yourself, how can you expect others to like being with you?” Kawasaki wrote. “Many of my best ideas have come to me when I am driving alone. I’ve often thought that my creativity has declined because I do not take long drives as often!”

But, even with the tips, Kawasaki wrote that it’s a matter of personal choice. “The question is, are you ready to stop the glorification of busy and start redefining success,” he wrote.

Jeff Haden, owner, BlackBird Media

When you work double-digit hours and Sundays are no longer a day of rest, feeling overworked can become the new normal,” wrote Haden in his post Simple, Objective Ways to Know You’re Overworked. “Even so you’ll eventually hit a wall, and when that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity and motivation you’ve lost.”

To alter this ‘new normal’, first you have to know the difference between overwork and just feeling overworked. Haden offered some techniques from professional mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop that apply to professionals, as well, to “ways to ensure you stay at your professional best.” Among them:

“Check your resting heart rate. Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse,” he wrote. Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a range of a few beats per minute. But when you’re overworked and stressed your system sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes over train and their bodies struggle to recover.) If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.”

Check your weight. Lose or gain more than a percent of body weight from one day to the next and something’s wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn’t eat and drink enough,” Haden wrote. “Or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate. Lack of nourishment and hydration can put the hurt on higher-level mental functions.”

Haden wrote that is important to “keep track of each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you. Pay special attention on weekends and vacations, and if you notice a positive dramatic change it’s a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.”

Jon Whitmore, chief executive officer at ACT Inc

When I visited the CEO at Dickies, the clothing company, in Dallas in the mid-1990s, she had this sign tacked to her wall and a smaller version sitting on her desk (that said) ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’,” he wrote in his post The Main Thing.

Whitmore wrote that he asked her why the signs were displayed so prominently.

Her reply, he wrote: “It’s so much easier to let yourself be distracted by the little things. These easy-to-fix little things can keep you from focusing on the often much harder-to-achieve main things.”

It’s a lesson for all of us Whitmore wrote. “By fixing the little things, you feel like you’re really accomplishing things, that you’re being productive and effective, that you’re a real leader,” he wrote. “But you’re fooling yourself. The MAIN THING is not being addressed. It’s being pushed to the side.”

That lack of focus and over-busy work landscape is exacerbated by technology, he wrote. After all, he saw this sign in the mid-1990s when there was no “all-consuming Internet, only modest use of emails and cell phones, no texting, no Skype, no Twitter, and no smartphones or tablets,” he wrote. “Keeping the main thing the main thing is 10 times harder now.”

But it’s critical, Whitmore wrote.”Yes, the small things need attention, lest they become a main thing. But if you truly focus your concentrated efforts on the main thing, you’ll be surprised how many of the little things vanish (because they weren’t important in the first place), or the little things get attended to much more quickly because you realise their insignificance relative to the main thing.”