A wise woman I once worked with used to talk about busy work with a tone of disdain. In her view this was something ineffective people did, consciously or unconsciously, to create the illusion that they are highly valuable. You know those people? Of course you do, they’re everywhere. They’re characterised by a flurry of activity, multi-tasking to the extreme, with a distracted look in their eyes.
Now for the more confronting part: are you guilty of busy work? Do you consider yourself valuable because you are busy or because you get things done? The antidote to busy work is a focus on outcomes. By consciously considering the value of using our time in particular ways, we can start to develop more finely tuned instincts to see busy work for what it is, and avoid it whenever we can. This means thoughtfully weighing up the costs and benefits of how we use our time, because it’s often hard to see the hidden costs of busy work.
So how can we push back against this global busy-ness epidemic? While in theory we’d just start wildly declining diary appointments, the fact is sometimes it is hard to decline a meeting without appearing unhelpful or uncommitted. So instead of thinking of ourselves, let’s focus on reducing the busy work we inflict on others. These are three ways we can:
- Don’t cc a cast of thousands on your emails. Sometimes an email originally includes some periphery stakeholders to keep them in the loop, but then the content becomes all irrelevant details and logistics. Don’t hit ‘reply all’ thoughtlessly. Before you send, look at the list of recipients and take off those who don’t need their inbox cluttered up with this.
- Plan your meetings with respect for the time of others. What is the meeting going to achieve? Who really needs to be there to achieve it? How much time is reasonable to set aside?
- Don’t wait for the end of the meeting to action the outcome. Make decisions quickly, galvanise support and empower others to action during the discussion, rather than having to find time after the meeting to drive next steps.
For more ideas about how you can drive a focus on outcomes, rather than activity, this article by Fast Companyincludes case studies from Asana, Dropbox and Dell.
THIS WEEK IF YOU…
… READ one thing, consider Patrick Lencioni’s new book The Ideal Team Player. Described as a ‘leadership fable’ (in the vein of John Kotter’s Our Iceberg is Melting but with less penguins), this book looks at the three key qualities to cultivate in each of your people to build a high performing team, and to look for when recruiting. Lencioni is a thought-leader and regular at global leadership conferences following his previous book, the best-selling The Five Dysfunctions of A Team.
And a laugh to wrap things up…
What a great example of using provocation to create a hook. We wrote about that a few weeks ago on The Vibe. If you missed that post.
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Til next time