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Ban Being " Busy"

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

The formula for change

“How are you?”

“I’m busy!”

How often are you hearing this? I am hearing it a lot, every day. Even I’m guilty of saying it!

What are the most likely causes?

1. Overcommitting

2. Not setting boundaries

3. Poor time planning

4. Doing work that can be done by others

5. Letting distractions get in the way of priorities

My husband and I have had several “busy” months. Lots on the go both personally and professionally. The reality is that we’ve said yes to everything that is making us “busy”. One morning commute as we talked about our day, we had the realization that every morning that week the conversation had been about how busy a day it was going to be. The reality was our day had been planned by us. We’d chosen what we did or didn’t put into our calendar. We were “busy” by our own doing.

We decided to ban using the word “busy” to describe what was happening in our day. The elimination of the word “busy” quickly made us realize how often we were using the word to describe our time. We had to stop ourselves mid-sentence as the word easily came into use.

“Busy” had become an overused word and a communication habit. Making this change for myself made me aware of how often those around me also say they are “busy”. Run this word audit on yourself and those around you for a couple days - your results could be very surprising.

How much of your state of “busy” is your own fault?

Let’s look at my habits that led to my “busy” as a gauge:

• I overcommit! I energetically think I can do a ton of work. I am taking on more than I can reasonably do. Missed deadlines and pressure from seeing my To Do list are the impact.

•  I want to be helpful. This is core to my purpose. This leads me to be terrible at saying No. I feel badly when I’m not able to help. I need to lean into my mindset of knowing that people who trust and respect me will be just fine with my saying No.

•  I need to plan my time. I need to focus on the right things. The hard truth of my profession is that I sell my time. Time is therefore my most valuable commodity. Scarcity of time is the situation for most knowledge workers. I have an amazing EA who now takes the lead on how my time is spent. I rarely add my own meetings. She does a far better job of planning my day than I do. Refer to points above for why she keeps me out of my own calendar!

Knowing what’s important…and sticking with it. While I am a good planner and know my priorities, I can get distracted by more interesting or fun things. As a society, we are getting more influenced by the effect of the “in the moment” feelings over the disciplined path to long term accomplishments. For me, it’s my skills and habits that need work to keep me focused on the right things. Time blocking is an important tactic for me.

• Delegate, delegate, delegate. I built Pivotal Coaching from the ground up and have done it all. I know what I’m good at and, since the early days, I have outsourced as soon as I could afford it. My tension point now is delegating work that I know I’d do better than my team. I can’t grow if I don’t let go.

Most successful people aren’t good delegators. They got to where they are by doing the hard work. The really successful leaders are very effective delegators.

Systems, processes and, most importantly, habits are the foundations to address how and where we spend our time. As we each have distinctive personalities, so will the organization system that sees us do our best work. The biggest tension, or irritation, to making a successful change to your “busyness” is the need to slow down to look at yourself, your systems, what you want to accomplish and how you need to do your best work. This investment will cost you time in the short term and pay you back with a high Return on Time (ROT) in the long term.

In the leadership competency model Pivotal Coaching uses in its programs, these skills are captured under the Operating Skills grouping. What’s needed to achieve mastery of Operating Skills?

How are you valuing your Return on Time (ROT)?

It’s about competency with Keeping on Point, Getting Organized, Getting Work Done Through Others and Managing Work Processes.

I look forward to seeing you and hearing what has been happening with your “busy” work.


Lisa W. Haydon is a high business acumen leader, credentialed sales professional, and executive coach. Lisa has led teams and clients in industries such as banking, commercial lending, capital markets, technology, consulting, and professional services. Her hands-on experience in executing change and growth mandates enhances client results. She is known for delivering transformational results with diagnostic tools, consulting and coaching.

Lisa is the founder of Pivotal Coaching, which specializes in sales effectiveness and leadership development services for companies optimistic and ambitious about growth. More information is available on the Pivotal Coaching website. For more on its proprietary diagnostic tool, visit our services page.


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