Written for EO by Don Scott, who applies 35 years’ experience in business and finance with a master’s degree in psychology to explore the path to meaningful change.
We equate being busy as being virtuous. When we’re maxed out, it feels safe. It must be productive. (Or is it?) It’s a badge of courage, honor or something …
I work with successful CEOs, entrepreneurs and founders who typically have one thing in common: They’re all slammed. People who are successful in their careers often arrive innocently at this sense of busy being best. Many of them grew up with hard-working parents who encouraged putting in the time to do your best.
You might see the problem, but keep doing it anyway. You know you need to change, but don’t know how. You are too busy to figure out how not to be so busy.
I view it entirely differently.
- You can change.
- You can get started and see the impact very quickly.
- If you’re that busy, you’re most certainly missing opportunity.
- What you gain from the change will far outweigh what you give up.
- The little voice that says “someday,” is a bold-faced liar.
I have lived the 3,500 hours-a-year work life. I have also lived the life of ease and grace. I’ll take the latter! It is not about giving up, copping out or not making money. To the contrary, it’s about gaining more of what matters.
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Begin with these three recommendations to start making time and making change today.
- Review the big picture. Get a sense of where your 168 hours a week go. Divide it between work and personal. Break the work down between highest and best value activities and lower value activities. On the personal side, see what you have available for working out, time with your spouse and kids, time for personal growth, chores, etc.
- Create an ideal. Thoughtfully and creatively consider your situation. Create another column that represents your “ideal scene.” That is, what would serve you best? In terms of your financial wealth and your life? It’s only the next 10 or 20 years! What would happen if you took 10 or 15 hours a week from those lower categories and put them into high-value categories? What if you took some work out of the equation, and just slowed down? Might you create more good, make better decisions, create more wealth, and have more time with your kids before they grow up?
- Create a plan and march forward. I asked a business owner to sit at the dining room table with a stack of note cards and write everything he does. Then, gather in one pile the top 25% of the tasks that are the highest value to his company, finances, family, and his life dream. Sweep the rest of the cards onto the floor. I can tell you, his face lit up like a little kid. Do you suppose that over time he can eliminate those lower priority tasks? Of course! After all, he owns the company.
Ultimately, the way you reach your ideal is to make it happen. You hire, delegate differently, pay up for more talent, and sometimes make different decisions. There are always workable solutions. It may take months or a year, but the results are worth the investment in energy and time.
Don Scott was a partner at Arthur Andersen, office managing director with a National trust company, and COO and CFO at an oil company. Today he’s a business leader coach.