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Being Busy Doesn't Mean You're Working to Your Full Potential

Michael Miller Oct 14, 2013 1:12:00 AM

Time ManagementIf your answer to “How’s your day going?” is “swamped”, “drowning in deadlines,” or even the simple “crazy busy”, you may not be projecting the image you want.

According to an article in The Week by Carmel Lobello, claiming that you’re too busy could lead to you being viewed as inefficient.

The media and the entertainment industry have fostered a culture of busy equaling businesslike, but this is actually far from the case.

As Meredith Fineman, an entrepreneur interviewed in Harvard Business Review, says, "to assume that being 'busy'…is cool, or brag-worthy, or tweetable, is ridiculous."

Claiming to be so busy you can’t take vacations, or that you must work late and on weekends, does not prove you’re a hard worker. It could be perceived that you are an inefficient worker. Being the busiest does not mean you’re the best.

Perception is important

Being deadline-driven, as many business professionals are, is not the same as being swamped by deadlines. Your business image will improve when your colleagues see you meeting your deadlines, rather than fearing you are being swamped by them.

Control

Laura Vanderkam from Fast Company explains that being in control is a better image to project. Ideally, we would all control our schedules, working from home during our most productive hours. This is impossible in today’s hectic business world.

However, we can all control our time. And using that precious time for multitasking is not efficient. Trying to perform several tasks simultaneously often means none are performed well. Instead, recognizing which tasks take more or less time, and allocating your time efficiently, is the key to success.

Time management

Spending time with family and friends is important to you as a businessperson, as well as for your quality of life. Everyone needs to recharge their mental batteries.

Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan refers to this process as “refreshing your bandwidth.” This could be by spending time with loved ones, working out at the gym, or even just taking a walk in the sunshine.

For Mullainathan, bandwidth refers to your ability "to reason, to focus, to learn new ideas, to make creative leaps and to resist [y]our immediate impulses." Some work tasks require a lot of bandwidth, while some require less. As Mullainathan says:

“That roundtable project update meeting may be time-consuming but not bandwidth consuming. The final decision on what to do about that nice but underperforming employee is not time-consuming but is bandwidth consuming. Being a good parent or spouse may be both time- and bandwidth consuming.”

Your efficiency depends on your ability to allocate your bandwidth effectively.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming ‘busy’ equates to ‘productive’ and exercise your time-management muscles.

Sources used in researching this article include The Week’s article: The worst word in business: ‘Busy’

Topics: Productivity