Are you suffering from the modern disease of busyness? Every day we speak to leaders who are plagued by having too much to do, constantly juggling and trying to multitask. In western culture it’s become a badge of honour to be busy all the time, but the truth is, when we slow down, a whole new world of insight, connection, understanding and creativity opens up before us. It’s as if there’s a secret doorway which you won’t even notice if you’re speeding along ticking off tasks at 100mph, but once you step through it, your leadership will be transformed.

Myth of multitasking and juggling

In recent years neuroscience has blown up the myth of multitasking, proving something that we’ve long believed: that humans are incapable of doing more than one thing at a time. So instead, the temptation is to juggle relentlessly, switching from one task to another in quick succession. Yes, our minds may be capable of doing this, but now it’s been proven that actually doing so is detrimental to our performance.

We all know that doing something well produces better results and greater satisfaction, so why do we persist in struggling to fit more things into our day, performing each of them to a much lower standard? Even worse, busy fools convince themselves that quantity beats quality, so as long as they’re getting through the to-do list, they believe they’re doing a great job.

Know the signs

The affliction of busyness is so familiar, so ingrained in our business culture, that it seems normal. But, like any problem, the first step to solving it is to see it for what it is. Look around you, look in the mirror, and check for the following signs:

  • Texting, WhatApping or sending Teams messages while in another call or meeting
  • Reading emails while pretending to listen to someone
  • Booking in ‘minor’ calls and meetings in between ‘bigger’ meetings

All of these behaviours reveal an absence of attention to the task in hand, a lack of presence in the moment.  Now, the intention behind them is almost certainly a good one – an attempt to see more people, respond to more queries, offer more support – but the effect can be so damaging.

When our focus is constantly shifting and our mind distracted in this way, it is exhausting for our brains and creates incredible stress. It also sends a message to those around us that they are not worthy of our full attention. And ultimately, nothing that we are doing is showing us at our best.

Getting rid of the busyness bug

The good news is, it is possible to rid yourself of the busyness bug and, when you do, your happiness and effectiveness as a leader will be transformed. I know you may not believe me yet (many leaders caught up in busyness are sceptical), but heed the words of one of my mentees:

“I couldn’t see how to move from a more operational role to a more strategic position…I couldn’t see that I had the time or space to make it a reality. But we worked through the great need for delegation to free up my time, and as we went on my focus shifted wholesale from being caught up in the detail to more strategic topics beyond the day-to-day firefighting.”

The key word here is FOCUS. When we slow down, the world comes into focus. We can see clearly for the first time, we can listen properly, pick up the nuances and read between the lines.

When I observe someone in a meeting who is wholly present and fully focused, their gravitas is something to behold, inspiring those around them with their insights and ideas. In contrast, people consumed by busyness are sadly unable to give their all in the same situation, and in fact may be attenuating their whole team without even realising.

Shaking off the shackles of busyness and achieving focus takes time and practice, but is within your grasp. If you need further support or would like to know more about our transformational leadership mentoring services, please get in touch.

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