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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Overcoming Busyness

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

As we enter the second quarter of the year, how’s your calendar looking?

If you’re like most of the leaders we talk to, your answer is probably somewhere between “pretty busy” and “HELP.”

Some solace? You’re not alone: USA Today reported on a multi-year poll that found that in each consecutive year since 1987, people reported that they are busier than the year before. Additionally, PEW Research Center cited that 60% of U.S. adults said they at least sometimes felt too busy to enjoy life, with another study reporting that the average adult had only 26 minutes of free time per week.

The feeling of overwhelming busyness isn’t foreign to most of us, nor is it surprising. The transition to telecommuting during the pandemic immediately blurred the lines between work and home, causing more people to work well beyond the typical 9-to-5 hours. Plus, more uncertainty has led to more meetings – 70% of which, HBR reports, are keeping people from being productive. The threat of layoffs and recession has made the grind even more… grindier! Add in the need to sleep, exercise, maintain a social life, run daily errands, and more – and it’s no wonder that we feel busy.

So, how do we counteract the busyness and keep our heads above water? Here are our four fast tips:

  1. Schedule Margin: In his book Smart Leadership, Mark Miller makes the case for what he deems “margin” – essentially, time devoted to thinking. Schedule one hour of margin on your calendar for each of the next four weeks. If you find this task challenging, you may need to skip ahead to tip #2

  2. Meeting Makeover: How many meetings on your schedule are wasteful, pointless, or “could’ve been an email”? How many could be shortened? Elon Musk is famous for scheduling his calendar in 5-minute intervals. Fast Company suggests 25-minute meetings as a sweet spot for creating clarity. Test out new systems to see what works best to ease the busyness of your business.

  3. Know Thyself: When is your brain most creative? When do you have low energy during the day? When do you naturally feel the need to sleep and wake? Stop living by your alarm clock, and start living according to your body. Doing so will maximize your productivity and allow you to do more with less.

  4. Create a Don’t Do List: It’s natural for us to try to organize our lives with lists when we feel busy – primarily, to-do lists. Instead, create a “don’t do” list. This could include items such as “no social media from X time to X time,” “no TV for two hours before bed,” or “no meetings before noon.” Find what works for you and makes you feel less busy!

There you go! Easier said than done, of course, but we hope these tips will help ease the burden of busyness in your life and leadership! Let us know how we can help by emailing!

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