I’ve been getting fed the “OMG I’m so busy, there’s no time for anything else!” line my entire professional life, so eventually I started blogging about it:
- There’s really no need to talk about how busy you are
- Being busy is the same as a drug for most people
- Only about 10 percent of Americans can balance “being busy” and “being happy”
- What exactly are you so, so, so busy with?
- Is “The Busy Trap” someday going to lead to an Essentialist movement?
I literally have never understood the whole busy thing. Life is complex, yes. Sometimes your boss is killing you with deliverables. Sometimes your kids have a lot of needs. You need to pay attention to your spouse and adult parents and siblings and family and friends. There are commitments, yes. THERE’S NO TIME FOR TRAVEL!
I’ve heard all this stuff. I’ve thought some of it (but not a lot of it) myself. My general viewpoint is thus: how “busy” you are is a choice. You have X-amount of time you’re required to be at work; if it’s taking you 2x that time to actually do your work, you need to think about how productive you are. I’m not saying skate out at 4:55pm every day (although I’ve had long stretches of life where I’ve done that, yes), but you don’t need to be rocking the 72-hour/week with pride every time out either. That just burns you out. About 55 hours/week is essentially a hard ceiling. Remember that.
In the grand scheme of writing this blog, one of the most interesting things that I think I’ve ever written is this whole idea of “micro” vs. “macro.” Basically, you can get consensus among one group (say, a senior leadership team) and that’s at the macro level. When that team breaks up and goes back to their individual teams and communicate the idea, you need success at the micro level (the day-to-day). Those are often not aligned. So “macro” — big picture — is often set, but then it falls apart when we need to actually get it executed at the “micro” — granular — level.
Phrased another way and going in the other direction, there’s a very real concept whereby daily deliverables (the micro) murdered strategy (the macro) in most organizations. This essentially happened because everyone is allowed to run around believing how busy they are. As such, no one can think long-term; everyone just wants to knock out what’s currently on their plate. That’s most people I’ve ever worked with, honestly.
Got this quote from here, which is an overall interesting article about why the advent of the Internet has made us all feel smarter:
This happens in politics a lot. You end up thinking you know arguments better than you do. Our research has shown that when college students are asked to assess their knowledge of topics, they are least accurate about how much they know about their own majors. When you’re invested in something, you like to think you know a lot more than you do.
Read that last line for a second.
When you’re invested in something, you like to think you know a lot more than you do.
What’s the No. 1 thing a lot of people are “invested” in?
(It provides purpose, baby!)
So your job is subsequently likely to be filled with a lot of people who, because of their perceived investment in the org and the work, think they know a lot more than they do.
If you combine this with the Kruger-Dunning Effect (everyone thinks they’re smarter than they really are, give or take), your boss being terrified of threats, and confirmation bias, you have a pretty nice three-legged stool for why work can be so soul-draining some of the time. (Oh, and throw in the issue where everyone assumes “formal power” is the same thing as “knowledge.”)
I think there’s sometimes a big concern with the very “work is virtue” people — and you all probably know a lot of them — that if they stop working, they’ll just shrivel up and die. That happens a lot with coaches; Bear Bryant is an example, and Joe Paterno is another one, although you can argue Joe Paterno had a lot of different stuff on his plate near the end of his life. This is all pretty logical: work provides purpose for a lot of people (even though companies don’t necessarily do a great job thinking about this), and they worry that without that infusion of purpose, all will be lost.
I take a little bit of a different approach to it: like I’ve written a couple of dozen times on this blog, I often feel totally irrelevant at work. I almost never work on projects that I feel like anyone else cares about, and I feel like — in basically every job I’ve ever had — when I approach people with concepts/ideas, they’re always truly focusing on something else. Part of this is my fault, yes. I think I’m a moderately intelligent person, and I could put myself into situations where I work on more relevant, revenue-facing things. Maybe I’m scared. Or maybe I just like doing the small things I do, and trying to establish myself that way, and I shouldn’t even complain or think about stuff like this.
I came across this article on Harvard Business Review called “Stop Worrying About How Much You Matter.” It’s pretty interesting all around, although — as you might expect — a lot of the focus is on people retiring and worrying about how much they matter. That’s not my problem and not probably ever going to be my problem; I’m sure most retirement avenues will have dried up by then, anyway. The rich get richer, baby!
This is a good section:
Still, there is a silver lining to this kind of irrelevancy: freedom.
When your purpose shifts like this, you can do what you want. You can take risks. You can be courageous. You can share ideas that may be unpopular. You can live in a way that feels true and authentic. In other words, when you stop worrying about the impact of what you do, you can be a fuller version of who you are.
Start here with the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, then read this summary post on NPR. It’s all based on 146K interviews around five core areas: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical. This is a little bit — not a ton — like what Blue Zones is doing around living longer.
Here are the top 10 nations in the world according to the metrics used:
1. Panama — 53
2. Costa Rica — 47.6
3. Puerto Rico — 45.8
4. Switzerland — 39.4
5. Belize — 38.9
6. Chile — 38.7
7. Denmark — 37
8. Guatemala — 36.3
9. (tie) Austria — 35.6
9. (tie) Mexico — 35.6
You might look at that and scoff, because it seems like a lot of Caribbean/Latin American vacation spots … and I mean, that’s great and all, but can people really live in those places successfully, especially if they’re accustomed to a more “first-world” viewpoint?
Got that chart from here. It’s an article written by Lou Solomon, who is the CEO of Interact, and is on the ol’ Twitter machine here. Here’s another thing I got from the article (overall it makes a lot of great points, but this is one of the greatest):
Here’s what’s happening and what you can expect… Companies operate in a constant state of change and all too often, information is withheld from team members until the last minute. This is a huge distraction for employees, who need “real speak” about their futures to be present in their work. Leaders often underestimate employees’ ability to accept “why” if it is shared in an honest way. Leaders will gain deep respect when they share as much as they know as soon as they can share it. Real explanations are always better than no explanations.
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I’m not entirely sure why, but it probably has some ties back to writing this blog each day.
Most people generally understand what “hierarchy” is. Even in companies that claim to be “flat,” it still pretty much exists. Some people think it might go away as the millennials rise up, but … don’t be so sure. Human brains need hierarchy to process “Who does what?” and “Who owns what?” even if most people aren’t really clear on those things either.
Then there’s “professionalism,” which is a concept we all talk about it in hushed tones here and there. He is professional; she isn’t.
There’s a weird intersection point between “hierarchy” and “professionalism” which might be the essential double-standard of life. Let me try and explain what I mean.