There’s a response to a commonly asked question that’s become a conversational crutch:

“How’s it going?” “Good! Just busy.”

This exchange is ubiquitous in both our personal and professional lives. It’s as if busyness carries a certain status symbol. Yet, being” busy” doesn’t make us happier; and it doesn’t make us more productive. It just means we are filling all of our available time.

Years ago, in one of our quarterly offsite meetings, a leadership team member told our facilitator, “I just don’t have enough time!” The facilitator’s looked at her, then at all of us, and said, “As a leader, ‘not enough time’ is an excuse you all must take out of your vocabulary. If you are waiting for all this free time to come, it’s never going to happen. It’s about what you prioritize and how you use your time. Effective leaders know how to prioritize what’s most important.”

His words have stuck with me. Even though I still find the phrasing “I’ve been busy!” on the tip of my tongue when someone asks me how I’ve been, I make a conscious effort not to say it. I try and remind my team to do the same.

Instead of hopelessly waiting to be given the gift of more free time, consider what high-achievers do to stay focused and accomplish large, long-term goals. They:

  1. Accept that time is a precious and fixed resource
  2. Know how to separate Urgent from Important
  3. Align their top priorities with their core purpose and or core values
  4. Don’t book 100% of their time; they value rest and relaxation
  5. Constantly look for things that they should stop doing
  6. Are selective about the people they give their energy to

Management guru Peter Drucker has said that effective leaders record, manage and consolidate their time. If we were more accountable and honest with ourselves about our time and how we spend it, I think we’d all be far more effective and happier. Turns out, most people aren’t very accurate in recollecting how they spent their time in a given day or week.

When an important task isn’t getting done, it’s important to acknowledge and admit that you have chosen to spend your time on less important tasks (i.e. posting on Facebook and Instagram). Instead of saying “I didn’t have enough time,” try saying “I chose to do X today instead of Y” or “I’m getting distracted” or “I’m focusing on the wrong things.”

This honesty and accountability will help you use your time more wisely, accomplish more and be less “busy.”


Quote of the Week

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Henry David Thoreau