Are you regular busy? Real busy? Going nuts busy? Or what? I don’t even ask the question whether you actually are busy, because no one would ever answer that they are not. This would be a sign you are not that important or that your job is not as big as everyone else’s. How quickly do you check your phone for messages after leaving a meeting or when leaving a dinner party? I know, you even check for messages during the meeting because your job is just so important that people need to be able to reach you like 20 hours a day. When checking for mail, is this a self affirmation that you are important or are you really trying to help others?
One of my first blogs, which can be found in the blog archives on my website, titled “An Hour that will Change Your Life” had a link to an incredible free Seth Godin book. I often wonder how many actually bothered to look at this book that could dramatically change the way we deal with the education of our children. I did hear a number of comments about not having an hour to spend on this type of thing. The funny thing is when I wrote the title I knew the hour would scare off most of those in our industry, as I recognize how everyone is working like a hamster on the exercise wheel.
This past weekend, the New York Times carried an incredible opinion piece written by Tim Kreider where he discusses the “busy” trap in our culture today. I know you don’t have an hour but please take 5 minutes to read this piece through from beginning to end. Then take another 5 minutes to really think about what he is saying. Does the piece hit home in any way? We are now entering the dog days of summer. These are the times when we are supposed to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the wonders of the world. Perhaps a very cutting question might be whether you spent more time with your email than experiencing nature today? Or worse, how about more than with your kids and loved ones?
I spend a lot of time with folks at all levels of marketing organizations in our industry and one of the things I have discovered is that the busier someone is the lower they usually are on the organizational chart. Those at the top of the organization usually spend a lot of time working on big ideas and they take the time to dream the big dreams and listen to others. Those who are so busy remind me of the factory workers who can’t take a minute to breath and enjoy life because the assembly line will just pass them by. They are trapped.
When counseling people on how to get promoted I always talk about getting things done without appearing to be overwhelmed by the work. If you always show you have capacity to take on more work you will be given the bigger projects and more important assignments. If you always appear way too busy your bosses will feel sorry for you and will think you are at your fullest capacity and can’t be ready for more responsibility.
I have given a million presentations in my life, but perhaps the most memorable was a new president orientation presentation where I had an hour to totally teach the new leader everything he needed to know about my area of the company. Immediately after, I started with some “clever” remark on the product and he stopped me. He said slow down a little, I want to get to know you. He asked where I grew up and how I ended up with this assignment. After about 15 minutes of talking about my thoughts and dreams he then asked me to tell him a little about the product. In 15 minutes, this person demonstrated the proper balance between people and products and work and non-work. From that point on, this person had my total respect as both a leader and a person.
Kreider’s opinion piece is getting tons of attention. It is number one on the most emailed list. It is being featured on the talk shows. The piece definitely hit a nerve in our country and I am sure it is relevant in our industry as well. There are only two ways to react. The first is to say I am am too busy and I really am “trapped” or alternatively you can make some changes. That decision is definitely yours.