Kelsey Raymond is the president of Influence & Co., a content marketing agency that specializes in helping companies from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands―including several Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member companies―showcase their expertise through thought leadership. As an entrepreneur with a long to-do list, we asked Kelsey her thoughts on the epidemic of busyness in business. Here's what she had to say:
Does this sound familiar? You're at a networking event catching up with other entrepreneurs, and when you ask people how they've been, you hear one word over and over: "Busy."
People put busy on a pedestal because they believe being busy is the same as being productive. They equate 10 meetings a day with getting stuff done and idolize the persona of The Busy Entrepreneur.
Honestly, this is ridiculous. Not only does simply being busy not translate into being productive, but being too busy can actually ruin your ability to focus and create true value for your company.
Rather than smiling in agreement and saying, "Yeah, I'm crazy-busy, too," let's change the narrative with, "Hey, being that busy sounds rough. Let's talk about some strategies that can help you change that."
Following are some tactics that have helped me break the busy spell.
1. Take advantage of online tools to become more organized.
Improving organization is a surefire way to increase your productivity. The organizational systems you set up should align with your unique working and learning styles, but these steps can help you get started.
- Track your time. My team uses Toggl to track how much time we spend on different projects. After analyzing my own Toggl data over three months, I discovered I wasn't devoting enough time to certain key areas of the business, so I shifted my focus. When you're busy, it's hard to know where your time goes. Keeping track of your time can help you become more intentional about how you spend it.
- Use to-do lists. To-do list apps, like Wunderlist or Todoist, are a simple way to make sure you know what you need to accomplish for the day, whether you're at your desk or in line at the grocery store. Because if you think you can keep everything prioritized in your head, I hate to break it to you, but you're wrong.
- Create tools for the activities you engage in most frequently. Sometimes, the project management tool that's perfect for you simply doesn't exist. In this case, you can either hack together a few different tools or create your own tool specifically for your needs. For example, my team created custom software for our content marketing and project management tasks, and it saves us dozens of hours every month.
2. Admit that multitasking is a myth.
Once you've got some better organization in place, it's time to be honest about your multitasking ability: You're not, in fact, all that great at it. Multitasking is a myth. What you're really doing when you think you're multitasking is "switchtasking," as explained in this video.
It might seem as though multitasking helps you get more done, but the truth is that you're divvying up your concentration and sectioning it off to various tasks--something that almost always results in mistakes, low-quality work and the need for a redo. Once you're committed to focusing on one task at a time, you'll increase efficiency and become less busy.
3. Stop praising busyness and take time to think.
The most important change you can make to become less busy is to commit to the mindset that being busy isn't a good thing. This can be difficult, especially for entrepreneurs who never seem to have enough hours in the day. But when you truly shift your mindset, you'll see the value in the time you open up for reading and reflecting.
Once per quarter, I take a half-day out of the office, with just a pad of paper and a pen, and reflect. I don't open my computer or turn on my phone. I simply think about what's happening with the company, consider the problems and opportunities we're facing, and write down my ideas.
This uninterrupted time is so valuable--but three years ago, I never would have taken it. I would have (mistakenly) believed I was "too busy." Now I realize the value in slowing down, and I know that this activity not only benefits my company, but it also keeps me from becoming "too busy" again.
Whether you begin taking half-days for reflection, start tracking your time, or use a new organizational tool, I hope you can resist the urge to brag about your busyness and feel comfortable instead bragging about how not busy you are--because you've figured out ways to better manage your time, which really is something to be proud of.