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Act Now -- To Stop Being Busy

Being busy is often a badge of honor. Because if I am busy, I must be important. The badge of honor treatment for being busy is fleeting. It really only holds in conversation. There is no real reward for always being busy. Instead, always being busy comes at a cost. We use being busy as a reason to:

  • Not finish in-process tasks.

  • Not start new things.

  • Work long hours (or at least to be "at work" for long hours).

If you truly are that busy, the costs are more personal negatively impacting your:

  • Family

  • Relationships

  • Health -- physical, emotional and spiritual

  • Effectiveness

How did that last bullet make the list? I will come back to that shortly. Before that, let's examine the change of scenery approach to alleviating busyness.

A change of scenery in the form of a different organization and/or a different role might give you a temporary stay from busyness. But you have lived this before. Sure, it would be different projects and different people, but still before too long you will be busy. You will be really busy.

Maybe it is always going to be that way. If you are willing to let busy be an inhibitor, busy wins and nothing changes. How will it change? Here are actions you can take in 3 areas:


  • Stop buying the lie that "being busy" is good

  • Stop perpetuating the lie that "being busy" is good

  • Stop giving the automatic "Busy" reply when a colleague asks how you are doing.

    • You know the one. Both parties just nod their heads and smile. There is no real conversation. It is more like justifying your position.

Stopping the "being busy" default will differentiate you and make you a more effective leader. People will see that you are different, that you are willing to go below the surface, and will want to talk with you.


  • Ask a question like "What has you so busy?" when you hear the "Busy" reply from a colleague, with the goal of understanding whether they truly are busy or have the understanding that being busy is the only culturally acceptable answer.

  • Ask follow-up questions like:

    • What might you drop?

    • What might you delegate?

  • Ask questions about expectations. Ask these questions of others and of yourself.

    • Perhaps you (or others you lead) are working to self-heightened expectations, unnecessary expectations or unrealistic expectations.

Asking questions of others -- and really listening to their answers -- will encourage real conversation with your colleagues. It will spark ideas and connections. Asking questions of yourself will help you be more effective as you change and innovate.


  • Spend a few minutes planning daily to determine your true priorities.

    • Use those priorities to determine how you will spend your time.

  • Spend an hour weekly reflecting and planning.

  • Spend time in locations other than your desk or office.

    • Use the physical location change as a mental prompt for different work or a different focus. For example, John Maxwell writes and speaks about his thinking chair.

  • Spend time talking with God.

  • Spend time talking with a coach.

Spending time to break down the busy inhibitor might seem counter-intuitive. After all, you are busy. Time pressure comes with being busy. But these spend actions are investments that will pay off in higher effectiveness for you and your team.

Regardless how our workplace cultures frame it, being busy is not always best. Being busy is not even necessarily good. Rather it is an inhibitor and comes at a cost. Still I understand you are likely pretty busy. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Now make it a valuable investment of your time. Take action. Let me know if I can help you stop, ask, and spend to gain freedom from the trap of busyness.

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