Busy: The Worst 4 Letter Word

time management four letter wordBusy. There are many four letter words I don’t want my children to say, but “busy” ranks at the top of the list. We have a cultural obsession with the word busy, and it needs to stop. Busy just means you’re filling time. It conveys nothing about results, efficiency, or productivity. Here are a few ways we can start to shift our value system away from busy.

Reward results, not time

We say “smarter not harder” yet the last car to leave the parking lot belongs to the employee who is most “dedicated.” Instead of judging a coworker or employee based on how full their calendar is, judge them on the quality of work completed.

If I typed every email one handed, that would make my work take three times as long, and I’d probably need to stay at work much later than everyone else because I would be so “busy.” Does that mean I’m more dedicated? Or a better worker? Of course not.

That’s not to say every employee who stays late is just a slow worker. Many people are simply overworked and have too much to do with too few resources. Which leads to my next point:

Stop rewarding efficiency with more work

Have you ever found a more efficient way to complete a task, only to find out you’ve been given double the work next time around? Rewarding efficient work with more work isn’t much of an incentive to find faster ways to do things. Continuing to load up employees with work until they reach their breaking point is a recipe for burnout. What if employees who found more efficient strategies earned an extra vacation day instead?

Foster a culture of balance

Your coworker needs to leave half an hour early to pick up his child from daycare. Do you question his job commitment? What if it was to go to the gym instead? Do you question it now? Unfortunately, many employees don’t make time for family or health commitments because they fear they’ll be taken less seriously at work. Wouldn’t it be great if work/life balance was encouraged at work instead of feared?

Reading back through this blog, I realize there aren’t a lot of individual action steps to make this situation better. Maybe because busy is a cultural problem, rather than an individual problem. It takes many small individual steps to change a collective mindset, so maybe we can each be a small part of the solution.

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