I wanted to write this earlier, but I was too busy. I’m betting you are too. So join me in the battle against busy with these five tips:
Be realistic – you are human
“You are not Superwoman.” This simple message from a mentor was a grounding gift. A lot of us have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, compounded by unrealistic workloads dragging us down the road to busyness. I try to humbly remind myself that I am only human. And because humans are fallible, embodying compassion and empathy for yourself and others can go a long way towards building your resilience.
What’s the worst that can happen?
A decade ago I found myself at a professional breaking point of overcommitment and impossible task lists. I was desperate to find a way out. A new mantra emerged: “What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t do this today, or next week, or, ever? What’s the worst that can happen if I delegate this to someone else or ask for help?” Asking myself these questions helps me figure out what to prioritize. Then I can focus on the most important thing.
Plan your time
“Don’t blame time; it’s all you have.” This advice from Your Best Just Got Better author Jason Womack had a profound impact on me. Realizing that most of us only have slivers of time throughout our day, he teaches the power of making the most of 15 minute increments. This was immensely helpful, allowing me to maximize little windows of time in my meetingladen days. Google Apps are my favorite technological tools for time management. Google Doc powerlists and Google calendar tasks help me keep chaos under control, and guide me to exactly what I need to be focusing on in those precious chunks of time between meetings.
Enlist and empower
As a typical “I’ll-do-it-all” type, it took me a while to realize that delegating is not only a positive action, it’s a necessary part of being a successful leader. If I have something interesting on my to-do list that I can’t squeeze in, I think about who else might actually enjoy or benefit from this task. Who could learn something by working on this project? It’s critical to explain what’s in it for the person you are hoping to enlist. As a lifelong learner, I truly believe that skillbuilding is a gift. By empowering yourself to ask for help, you empower others around you.
Ban the B word!
“How are you?” I guarantee the one word response to this familiar greeting will likely be, “Busy.” Everyone is busy. Life is full, and my everyday survival strategy is something along the lines of hang on. When someone I’m working with on a project tells me they are “too busy,” I would catch myself silently outbusying them in my mind. I realized this had to stop. So I banned the word busy. It’s very liberating, mostly because I feel I’m in control. I’m not letting busy win. When others drop the “b word” on me, I share what I’ve been trying and encourage them to ban busy too. Join me!