Busy is Easy

Too often managers I work with are sucked into the busy trap. For periods of weeks and months they seem to be hurrying from one thing to the other. From meetings, to tasks, to more meetings.

It may feel productive, or feel like that’s what managers should be doing, or simply fun. I know of many CTOs that like to stay involved in as many parts of the team as possible. Regardless of whether this seems to you a necessity or just a nice way to work, it is most likely wrong.

Being busy by default is the easy way to work. It means that you’re not turning down enough things that are unimportant. It also means you are very likely becoming a bottleneck in your team, where you should be actively working on being just the opposite. And, of course, a too-busy manager is usually a smell for a manager that doesn’t delegate enough.

These past couple of weeks I’ve talked to CTOs that couldn’t take a day off for literally months, have been working 6-day weeks for years, and that regularly take on the harder tasks from their team because “there’s no choice”.

You need spare time built into your calendar. That’s because if you’re always busy, there’s no thinking time. If your brain is always in execution mode, you’re not going to learn and improve. Stuck in some sort of groundhog-day, you’ll be routinely doing the same thing day in and day out.

This isn’t a nice to have. This is a must if you’ve taken on the responsibility of managing a group, not to mention being an executive.

And instead of trying to throw more facts and opinions about why this is so crucial, I suggest taking a leap-of-faith here and trying this out for a couple of weeks. Simply carve out an extra hour in your working time that’s unscheduled. Time that you can sit and think, walk around in the office and see what people are doing, retrospect your last project, whatever. Just have time where you’re not actively busy and letting your brain breathe.

I’m sure you’ve got a few meetings that you don’t really need to be sitting in (a topic worth discussing in a future article). Start by cutting a handful of those for a week, and see for yourself. I recommend getting a notebook and just writing down your thoughts as a first exercise. This is the beginning of actively leading, instead of rolling along.