Too busy? You need to read this!

by Don Smith

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 “I'm too busy right now.”

How many times have we heard or felt like this?

I'm sure you are actually pretty busy.  I am too.

I've got 5 kids, exercise regularly, run a business, blog, coach a club at Toastmasters, am in a weekly men's group at church, lead a couple's group, and serve on the Board of Directors at the Red Cross and a local bank.

I'm tired just typing all that.

I don't say all of that to brag.  My point is that I've got the same 24 hours each day that you do.

So how do I manage all of those things without getting completely overwhelmed?

Well, first of all I do get overwhelmed sometimes, just like anyone!

What I have learned over the years though is how to get the right things done.

I've also learned to say NO to the wrong things.

Right now, I've got a handwritten list in front of me of the things I need to get done.

That list will take me way longer than the amount of time I'm willing to put in today!

What having that list in front of me does allow me to do is to figure out WHAT is most important.

THAT is what I will get done today!

The other thing that it does is to allow me to think through WHY I am doing certain things, and what things are not important.

Things that fall in the not important column?  I cross them off!  Done!

I think through it, and also add things that are important that I should be doing.

I ran across this little video the other day

Tail on fire

How many times have you found yourself running from fire to fire, without stopping to figure out that having your tail on fire IS the reason why there are always fires?

I know I have!

Let me give you a little example of this from my personal experience.

I was hired on to help out several offices with a conversion from mainframes to PC's (yes, I realize I'm dating myself!  Kids, that's what most businesses used before regular computers).

I was supposed to swap out the mainframe terminals and install PC's, then troubleshoot issues as they come up.

I was in a micromanaged environment, where I was only supposed to go off of support tickets.  Users were to call the help desk, and if the help desk could not resolve the issue, a support ticket was put up, and I was sent out.

Day after day, I ran from office to office running support tickets.  I was extremely busy!

Then I started to realize something.  All of my support calls were from training issues!  No one had trained the users!

I decided to go outside the box.

I put my calls on hold.

I started going around and spending time training the users on the software, something that I was not supposed to be doing.

Calls stacked up.

I got to the most urgent ones, and ignored the rest.

Within a week, I had all my users trained.

I started clearing the huge backlog of calls, and I noticed something.

No new calls were coming in!  I was finally catching up!

One week later, I had virtually no calls to run.

I had gone from being so busy that I could never get to the bottom of my pile, to having the lowest call volume in the state!

I WAS the MAYTAG repair man!

All because I took a little time to resolve the underlying problem rather than continue putting out the nearest fire.

The other areas took notice, and eventually the underlying problem was corrected system wide, saving thousands of man hours and making the end users much happier.

Why no one thought the users needed training is beyond me!

My guess is that they all thought they were too busy to stop and do some training.  Or more likely no one bothered to stop and think about it because they were “too busy” fighting the symptoms rather than looking for the underlying cause.  That cost a lot of frustration, money, and wasted time.

Take the time to do those things that are important and urgent today, but also think through what is important, but not urgent.  Do those things too!

If you make that a habit, you will find you are much less busy, but much more productive.

Change the way you think of “I'm too busy” to “It's not a priority for me right now”, and you'll find that you will have time to get the right things done.

If you still don't have time to get the right things done, then you need to think about what is truly a priority in your life.  Stop doing those things that are not at the top of your list!

You will not be able to do anything well if you try to do everything, so focus on the highest priorities and do those things well.

Don't forget to schedule some time for friends and family, they should be on your priority list!

If you liked this article, you'll probably like the book First Things First.  I encourage you to follow the link and pick up a copy for a deeper dive on this subject!

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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