Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Too Busy Is The New Black

Seeming to do - is not doing. - Thomas Edison

Years ago, I learned of a brilliant marketing technique for movies, whereupon the producer could create and distribute a film having several different endings to the very same story, which would, of course, prompt the audience to return to the theater and watch the film again, just in case they didn't like the first ending very much, or, perhaps they're just curious how else the story could unfold. People would then talk with others about the film and how it turned out for them, comparing notes, generating even more interest, with the film developing a large following as everyone kept going back to see the film again and again, hoping to catch a different ending the next time.

This was the feeling I had when reading an article this past weekend on Harvard Business Review, Please Stop Complaining To Everyone How Busy You Are. I liked it up through the first few paragraphs, yet when it took a direction I just didn't want it to go, I found myself re-reading it several times over the next two days, each time hoping for a different ending. But, of course, it's in print, and although the author could conceivably change and submit a new ending every few hours to the editor, HBR just doesn't seem like the type of publication that would go along with that. So, I guess it will be up to me to make my own different ending to the story, and publish it here.

Busy, yes. But accountable for results?
Anyone who's read much about the popular phenomenon known as multi-tasking, knows this is really not a skill at all, yet an exercise which turns one's brain into oatmeal, producing a less efficient employee than one who regularly smokes pot. One cannot help but wonder, then, with the evidence available, who, exactly, continues to promote this notion as de rigueur?  

I have a different take on the matter; a significant population of too-busy folk who are not getting the attentive management at work they deserve, nor the help their organizations could easily offer ahead of time. And that's where the author's story for me went south, assuming the productive solution for a too-busy multi-tasker was to simply structure their daily tasks of too busyness and then take a deep, less busy breath. I think all that gives us, however, is a well-adjusted pot smoker, yet not an effective domestic worker that is held accountable for actual results during their workday.

Too-busy is not the result, IMHO, of too much activity, yet the result of any activity which is not given clear responsibilities, authorities, and accountability for a consciously applied purpose - and then followed up and appreciated in a meaningful way. Too-busy is a cry for help, a shout from someone pleading: please tell me what the priorities are around here and then recognize me as a valuable contributing member. Multi-tasking and the haute couture of too-busy has now, dare we look, taken on a grotesque costume all its own - and to the dismay and harm of any person's or organization's success. And a not really so fashionable one.

We don't need to place structure into a jumble of nonsense that was all wrong in the first place. We need to take a look, first, at what needs structure to meet the ultimate objectives of the principals... with mission, vision, and values always a good place to start.