Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I used to work in New York, where everyone constantly talked.
Mostly, they talked about themselves and how busy they were--at least while they were in the office. In the bar, they'd talk about how dissatisfied they were--when they weren't going to the restroom and returning oddly more animated, that is.
The two elements might be related. My own observation was that these people talked a lot about being busy, but they didn't actually seem to do terribly much.
It was all wind and politics.
It's instructive, therefore, that some researchers are discovering the limitations of being busy (or even thinking you are). Here are six reasons why you should cut the busy-ness and just chill a little.
1. Dealing With A Thousand Things At Once Means You Don't Deal With Any Of Them.
Forget business for a moment (if you can). Think about your own personal life. Since when has having too much on your plate made for a satisfying life dinner? You have a to-do list longer than a jilted ex-lover's memory. It never seems to end. Meanwhile, all you do is try and find shortcuts. Those shortcuts mean each task is never done well and no one in the family is satisfied. This is particularly the case with people who have children (and can't afford two nannies). Catch them in a private moment and they'll tell you how productive they are--just as they try and convince you (or themselves) that it's all worth it.
2. When You Do Two Things At Once, It Takes Longer To Do Both.
Research performed by Professor David Meyer of the University of Michigan shows that switching abruptly from doing one thing to another means you take 25 percent longer to do each thing. Are you aware of this? Have you tried measuring it? Is this your dirty little secret, the one you won't tell anyone about? Or are you a genius multitasker who can't understand what all the fuss is about?
3. When You're Interrupted By Something More Trivial, You Don't Go Straight Back To Doing The Important Thing.
Here's a study from Microsoft in which participants were interrupted an average of 50 times a week from their primary tasks. Being from Microsoft, the researchers thought they could design better software to encourage workers to go back to the task at hand after an interruption. The truth, though, is that an interruption is a marvelous excuse not to go back to that task, but instead to surf the Web, email a friend or, in fact, do anything other than go back to that important task. This is because we're human.
4. You're Busy Because Technology Wants You To Be, Not Because You Need To Be.
Gadgets have played an insidious role in making you busier. They've allowed bosses to track their staff 24 hours a day. They've made employees feel guilty about switching off their phones -- even at an anniversary dinner. They've created a world in which fear of missing out heightens the fear of something going wrong at work that will wreck your days and nights. Can you even remember what it was like when your boss couldn't get hold of you on vacation? Can you remember managing your business and still having at least one day off a week? Wasn't it better then?
5. The Truth Is That You Think Being Busy Means You're Successful.
As CEO of TalentSmart Dr. Travis Bradberry pointed out in a recent article, researchers at the University of Chicago believe they know why people like to be busy. It's because busy-ness is a sign of success. These researchers suggest the core of the idea is a fear of having nothing to do. But isn't it rather more than that? Isn't it the idea that if I'm rushing around all the time, a phone in either hand, a smart suit on my ever-expanding, business-lunched body, I'm a Master Of The Universe? Aren't we supposed to adore those for whom business is their whole life and whose slightly panic-stricken, bloodshot eyes are the battle scars of commercial triumph?
6. The Other Truth Is That You Make Yourself Deliberately Busy Just To Avoid Things In Your Personal Life.
Please forgive me for offering my own research. I have encountered too many people in my alleged career who deliberately took on more things in order not to deal with life outside business. They find their validation in being able to soak up more and more and somehow getting it "done". They believe they will be "loved" for it. This doesn't mean they do everything well. It does mean that they bear more than their fair share of the work burden, so that their energies are too sapped to deal with their love-lives, their families or their true selves. This isn't merely unproductive. It's tragic.