The Culture Of Busy

I have been reading Unlearn by Barry O’Reilly. Brilliant book, and a must read especially if you are a leader in IT.
oreilly-3dTo quote Barry, “We all love being busy. In fact, we celebrate and subtle enjoy telling our colleagues, collaborators, and competitors how busy we are. The question we don’t consider is this: What is the result of all this busy-ness?”

Are you always busy? Rushing from meeting to meeting all day?
it’s good right, cause if you are busy, then you are getting LOADS of work done yea?


What is happening is you are just bouncing from meeting to meeting and problem to problem not actually fixing anything. You don’t have time to try out new ideas, or worse yet THINK of new ideas. When you are this busy it is very simple to fall into the same old bad habits.

Are you getting anything done? Have you set yourself goals that you never seem to have time to get to? Or do you find yourself having to work long hours just to get the basics of your job done? I’d imagine there are loads of things that could be done to improve your current system but you just don’t have the time to even think up new solutions, let alone trial them.

Also, if you are a leader in your company are you expecting everyone to be as busy as you? If so you are wasting valuable problem-solving innovation time for your staff. Nobody has time to question why there are so many problems, or even why somebody is asking for something.

All you are doing is encouraging a culture of busy-ness, not of problem solving and fast learning.

So what can be done? Personally, I have tried personal Kanban. Just a little board beside your desk with post it. Next, In Progress, Done. Keep it small and simple. I imagine that visualising your backlog and in progress could be shocking. You may also be able to see that some of the work you are doing is a total waste of time. You will also become better at prioritising your work in progress. Focusing on what work is import and what work is just busy work and a time waste.

Now on to all those meetings. It could be time to examine the need for them. Maybe enforce a meeting policy. You can only have a meeting that has a clear agenda, there needs to be an outcome. Also, I have seen teams trial some cool ideas, only have meetings in the evenings leaving mornings free for work. Only have meetings one day a week. My favourite was only have meetings for max 45 mins. The team noticed that there was less time wasted when they forced themselves to focus on only important stuff.

What about constant reports you may ask? My manager wants all these reports, cause their managers want reports. Well what are you reporting exactly? Is it something that team is already visualising? If you have a Kanban board, start showcasing it. Instead of firing off work in progress reports just send a link to your board, or if its physical send a picture of it. Better yet invite your manager to the morning stand-up, and boom work in progress problem solved. Maybe its upcoming work, well if you have an impact map created with the team, hang it up where everyone can see it. No longer do you need meetings or emails for team work in progress catch-ups, or up next catch ups. Visualising everything is powerful.

Another thing that’s important is taking time to learn. So, plan in slack time. Maybe start by blocking an hour a day in your calendar for learning. If you are a leader this is VERY important. Make sure you are see learning. Read a book. I recommended Barry’s latest. If your team and staff seeing you trying to learn, it will encourage them to as well. You are thus creating a safe space to learn and grow. This will only help your company.

So start small, but start. Together we can remove the old school always busy office culture. Moving forward we can show that doing less but more important work is better and smarter. Also prove that continuous learning and self-improvement leads to more productive days.

I will leave you with this little YouTube video that explains why your time should not be constantly filled up.

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