Are you busy? Me, too. Unfortunately, activity is not the same as accomplishment. For some reason, I seem to forget this over and over again. I think busyness may be one of the most insidious and disruptive things leaders must guard against. Why is activity so dangerous? Here are a few reasons.
Activity can be addictive – Like other addictions, the previous level required to get a high no longer creates the needed buzz. So, we up the dose. What used to be exciting must be replaced by something even more exciting, demanding or challenging. If we’re not extremely careful, activity will beget activity… and we’ll love it!
Activity can be distracting – If we’re busy, we may not be aware of more pressing issues and challenges. The harder we work on the wrong things, the greater the danger. We’ve all heard about the airliner that crashed while the crew was focused on a 10-cent light in the cockpit that was malfunctioning.
Activity can be counter-productive – I’ve written about this phenomena before in a post entitled, You Get No Credit for Doing the Wrong Things Well. The more diligent you are at the wrong activities, the further you are from your stated goals and objectives.
Activity can cloud our judgment – If we’re busy doing, there’s a fair chance we’ll be too busy to think. Or, as is my case more than I want to admit, I do think but not deeply. I still believe a leader is paid, in large part, for their thinking. For me, my best thinking requires time and focus. Activity can be the thief in the night. We never really know what happened to our time to think – it’s just gone.
Activity can mask pain… for a while – Activity can serve as a painkiller for some leaders. The thinking goes something like this: If I stay busy on random things, or even good things, I can avoid the painful thing that screams for my leadership attention. This approach is like most pain medication - it ultimately wears off.
Activity can create a false sense of accomplishment – This is what trips me up all the time. I can assume I’m doing my job well because I’m exhausted! I can rationalize the tasks undone by counting all the activities I’ve checked off my To-Do list. The problem with this thinking is we only get credit when we invest our time on the right activities.
I think leaders have to be very careful not to get confused regarding what success looks like. Success is not a full calendar – our goal should be the productive use of our time to enable others to grow and accomplish predetermined outcomes. Non-strategic activity wars against our success.
How do we avoid the activity trap? I’ll share some ideas about that next week…[GLS_Shield]