Reflections on Leadership
Thank you for reading my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey. Please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this article, a like, a share or message me directly.
Leaders are not too busy!
Let me share some semi-hypothetical conversations with you:
- “How have you been?” “Busy”
- “Why don’t you read more?” “I’m too busy.”
- “Why don’t you exercise every day?” “I don’t have time.”
- “Would you like to take on this stretch assignment?” “I’d love to, but I don’t have the time.”
- “Have you found a mentor?” “No, I have been too busy.”
- “Do you a few minutes to help me with a problem I am having?” “I can’t, I am too busy.”
Do any of these sound like conversations that you have been part of recently? It seems like everybody is busy, too busy and doesn’t have time to invest in some pretty important things. These things include personal development, developing others or caring for their own health. How is it possible that everybody is this busy?
Contrast this perpetual busyness with the fact that the average person spends more than 2 hours each day on social media. Add to this the hours that the average American adult spends watching TV each day – that is 4-5 hours by the way. Plus you can mix all of this with the time we spend discussing things we watched on TV, sports in particular, and it gets harder and harder to understand how we are “too busy” to invest our time.
In an article I reread about once every 6 months, How to Escape the Cult of “Busy”, Janet Choi translates the “I’m busy” phrase into more honest terms. When somebody talks (or brags!) about how busy they are, they are usually saying once of the following:
- “I matter” – people want to remind you of their significance
- “I am super-important” – people like feeding their own ego
- “I’m giving you an easy excuse” – they just don’t want to be honest and say no
- “I’m afraid” – they are working to conquer their fear of missing out
- “I feel guilty” – they are feeling guilty about spending too much time on unproductive stuff
In an second article I read last week from Inc., Benjamin Hardy argues that your life my be significantly off-track if you find yourself too busy for 5 things:
- Organizing your life
- Planning and investing in your future
- Tracking important metrics
- Prayer and meditation to reduce the noise
- Moving towards your goals every day
I would respectfully add a 6th item to this list: being approachable and contributing to others.
Being so busy that you aren’t available for others is a fatal flaw for a leader. In fact, if your are not contributing to others with your time, I would argue that you are not being a leader at all. A top priority for any leader should be helping others develop and, at its core, this requires approachability.
When you say you are “too busy” you should really be saying “that is not a priority” for me.
We all have the same 168 hours available every week (as our friend Laura Vanderkam reminds us in her books) and we all make choices about how we want to invest that time. We can invest it in service to others and in self-care and self-development or we can invest it in garbage – much like our savings, right? But saying we “are too busy” or “don’t have time” is simply a crutch and is dishonest, so call it what it is “not my priority.”
Ok, maybe I am being a little too harsh. Maybe you really think you are too busy and cannot imagine trying to fit one more thing into your life. Very much like “I don’t know why I am not losing weight” or “I don’t know why I can’t seem to save any money”, right? My recommendation is the same for all… it is time to do an audit!
Spend the next few days or weeks auditing how you are investing your time. Track how much time you are spending on all of your daily activities. How much TV are you watching, how long is your commute, how long are you sleeping, etc.? By collecting this data you will be in the position to make more fact-based decisions about your time.
Once you have identified how you are spending your time, you will be able to reallocate your time based on your priorities. What are your goals, what do you want to accomplish, what are your values and so forth. Based on the answers to these questions you can decide how to prioritize your time. Next thing you know, you can accomplish great things in the same number of hours that you couldn’t have imagined adding one more thing to just a short time before.
Just make sure to prioritize being of service to others and helping people develop if you want to be a leader.
Call to Action: the first step is to change your vocabulary and stop saying “too busy” or that you “don’t have time” and start saying “that isn’t a priority for me right now”. Just by doing this, you will rewire your brain a little bit. Then do a time audit to see how you can reprioritize your time to make space for the things that really are your priorities. Then, live a life full of productivity, accomplishment, success and happiness!
Thanks for listening!