Why am I busy? Assessing before it takes over

Time pressures can bring out the worst in us, that’s why my first entry on this topic was entitled how to be effective and a nice person. The focus of this off-shoot is to spot busyness induced stress and act upon it before it becomes a concern.

Take this as an opportunity to stop and ask yourself ‘why am I busy?’ I’ve split the solution into two parts: Attitude and Method.

Let’s start with our attitudes. There are personality traits  that are shared between successful entrepreneurs. I’ve listed them below also adding how, on a bad day, they have the tendency to sway towards less helpful attributes:

Entrepreneurial characteristics How they can go bad
Tenacious, resilient, driven, dedicated Bloody-minded
Risk tolerant or tolerant to ambiguity Foolhardy
A strong sense of self-belief rooted in a passion and vision Doubting the belief of others
Well connected and well organised Self-sufficient
Flexible, versatile, willing to fail, adaptable Leaving the ‘slow-thinkers’ behind
Inquisitive, able to question, curiosity Easily bored
Social, collaborative, creative Weak ego, scatterbrained

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with these characteristics. If you recognise any in yourself then you’ll know that it is due to these characteristics that you’ve even managed to get anything off the ground at all. However we should also be aware of how these positive traits can turn sour when under pressure or when not kept in check. In essence they can turn you into an island, only using your partners or colleagues to affirm you in your perceived weaknesses without actually letting them in on your work. A lot of these traits can intermingle to create a person that can’t see any good reason to delegate anything and also may struggle to focus on mundane tasks when there seems to be ‘bigger fish to fry’. Any of this sounding familiar?

This can start to play out in the way that you organise your time. Your to-do list gets larger and larger but because you are distracted by business critical topics and convinced you’re the best person to fix all the problems and manage all the tasks the list never goes down, you have to pull an all-nighter just to scratch the surface. The only way to fix this is to go back to the root of your attitudes, question your reasons for not trusting other people with your workload, use your risk tolerant nature to take risks on the people you employ, adapting when they fail and recognising the long term benefits of letting other people in on your vision and journey, even if at first it seems to slow things down.

This is an ongoing battle that can be coupled with a methodology for approaching tasks known as the Eisenhower matrix, named after 34th US president Dwight Eisenhower who also led the US army during World War II. He was well known for his strong leadership in that position. The matrix is a simple grid which allows you to easily prioritise your tasks so that you can keep on top of your to-do list and in doing so hopefully keep on top of your stress levels. I explain it in my blog on Eisenhower here.

It’s worth also mentioning that some tasks cannot just be done, scheduled, delegated or deleted. Some are way bigger than that and have been on your to-do list for a long time. Take a good look at some of the tasks causing you stress, do they fall into the camp of a blocked, uncertain or impossible goal? These tasks will need some special attention to work out if/how they can be pushed forward, defined better or just removed entirely; otherwise they will continue to haunt you. You may need a fresh pair of eyes and a bit of scheduled time to even get to the bottom of how to progress with goals like this.

I hope you found this post helpful, as always, we love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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