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Is Busy Good or Bad?

The question draws a lot of debate, and no small amount of emotion. It has gathered diverse opinions in fields ranging from neuroscience to management theory. One camp says busy is good and one says it is not.

But in practice I find the answer is not so simple. Perhaps it’s not even the right question.

A better question might be – “what kind of busy is best for your business?”

Not all Busy is Created Equal

A physical trainer recently told me not all exercise holds equal value toward building strength or stamina. What matters is the type of workout you give your body. Just as not all food we eat is nutritious for building healthy bodies. Some food can actually harm us.

Likewise it matters the kind of busy we occupy in our work. Not all busy is created equal – there is indeed ‘good busy’ and ‘bad busy’. The difference could be critical to the health of your business.

Bad Busy – The Work Equivalent of Junk Food

There are probably clues around you indicating it might be time to think seriously about your kind of busy. If you are constantly behind, rarely completing key initiatives, or feel like you are spinning your wheels you may be indulging in the work equivalent of junk food.

What you spend your hours doing may well have no ‘nutritional’ value for your business. To the extent that is true, it is THAT kind of busyness that could well be hurting your business.

Examples of bad busy or junk work might be micromanaging, delegating but never following up, doing something yourself others could do as well if not better, over-analyzing, taking on tasks just to remain in control, withholding information for the same reason (which takes great effort and creates a lot of downstream busy), needless reports, meetings without agendas, always reacting to crises, delaying decisions, not creating systems because you don’t have the time, leaving meetings without next steps clearly assigned.

The list could go on and on.

I remember one business owner I worked with spent their time basically being an administrative staff member – refusing to lead the business. Transforming the business had to begin with transforming the way that owner invested their time and attention – what she kept busy with.

So it becomes a valid question – what kinds of busy are behind your work as a leader?

Turning Bad Busy into Good Busy

Bad busy is learned behavior that can be changed, if you as a leader are willing.

Here are four ways to replace bad busy with good busy. These simple yet intentional modifiers can make all the difference in the health of your organization, family and community.

Purposeful – Healthy busy has some kind of goal, aim, intention that is tangible, meaningful, and can be articulated as opposed to just being work for works sake. This takes a little thought, but is an oft disregarded component of every venture, project and task. Make your work ‘calories’ count by being clear on the purpose of every single thing you do.

Planned – Another essential component of healthy work: that we think about it before we do it. Leaders – if it is worth doing it is worth thinking about first. Never abdicate your leadership to thoughtless activity. Plan it or can it, or it will mess up your system.

Prioritized – Once the work is purposeful and planned, it then needs to be prioritized. It really doesn’t matter according to what. Maybe according to importance, urgency, risk or outcomes. But prioritize all work, and not just occasionally. Prioritizing must occur often, even multiple times a day.

Productive – Finally, all these things set up an opportunity for the work to have a viable product or result. In other words, it is productive. If you give your work the right inputs, you will more likely get the desired outputs. But this too requires intentionality.

Busy that is purposeful, planned, prioritized and productive is a good busy. It builds healthy organizations, families and communities. It also takes a discipline of leadership to learn and discern between the various types of busy that can occupy the day.

But the rewards are significant and could give your business – whatever it is – a new lease on life!

Make Life Count