I sat with 15 female leaders over dinner a couple of weeks ago, chomping on our desire to be drivers of positive change in our businesses and society. From ambitious entrepreneurs, to corporate powerhouses, each lady juggles the competing pressures of work life, home life and passion projects for the greater good.
What aligned us almost universally, was the drive to ‘do’ for the benefit of others, but the absence of space to think, strategize and prioritise.
The result? Lots of activity. Great.
But it got me thinking – while we’re busy doing, how can we be sure we’re doing the right thing?
What does that mean?
Firstly, that means: are we spending our time on the tasks that create the outcome we desire? Are we choosing the activities that will help us…to succeed in a project; to get a promotion; to hit that deadline; to ‘win’ by your definition of success?
The fact is, when we’re busy doing, WE DON’T KNOW if we’re on track for success because we’re not looking. It’s like the heads-down mobile phone addict wandering into a lamppost. Great at doing lots of clicks with their thumbs, but terrible at navigating along a busy street.
It frustrates me to see so many of our brightest minds in big corporate machines and small enterprises alike, acting like they’re addicted to doing. Any of these sound familiar…?
- Back-to-back meetings
- A backlog of ‘stuff’ that you’re always chasing
- Being the super useful person who always gets shit done
- Working from the train, from your sofa, from your holiday sun lounger
The sad thing is, ‘busy’ probably feels gratifying to you. It does to me. It feels like I’m wanted and like I’m being productive. It feels meaningful.
Yet the great irony is that BUSY-NESS IS NOT MEANINGFUL.
It’s just being busy.
Being busy does not assure that we’re doing the right thing to succeed in that project, promotion or deadline.
Being busy, if we’re really honest, isn’t truly taking responsibility for the outcomes that you desire. Because when we stop for a minute and think – then we can get clear about where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.
This is radically different thinking to being busy. This is slower, more considered, more mindful. And it’s more effective.
Now, critically doing the right thing isn’t just about choosing activities that get you to the result you desire. It also means ethically, emotionally and spiritually doing the right thing.
When we’re so caught up on the busy chase of hitting a deadline, we miss things. Often, we miss the precise things that many of us are passionate about changing in the world, leading us to be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
When I’m busy, for example, I miss:
- Deeper relationships with every person I encounter. I think of the teammate whose concerns I barrel past, or the husband who I brush aside on my march out the door to some place important. Pretty hypocritical if I want to contribute to creating a world where people and their potential is valued.
- Thinking deeply about my task. When I think deeply, clarity and new ways of thinking emerge. When I think in the middle of busy doing, I barely think at all. If I want to advocate for a world where high quality, diverse thinking is the norm – this is NOT the way to go about it.
- Reflecting on what I’ve done. My busy doing-ness can happily distract me from ever spotting a mistake that could be rectified, or a habit that could be improved upon. If I care so much about personal growth and development, then what the heck am I doing?!
When I’m caught up in busy-ness, I cannot be the change making leader – I can only, at best, maintain the status quo.
The solution then?
As leaders we HAVE TO get better at taking time:
- Time to stop
- Time to create our vision for our career, our company, our society
- Time to dream about the nuances of who we are and what contribution we can personally make
- Time to reflect on what we’re doing and the impact we’re having
- Time to be brave about cutting out the things we no longer want to do
And as I reflect on this, I realise that I have a contribution to make to you, especially if you’re a female leader on a mission to create change.
I host regular Vision Hunts specifically to give female leaders the headspace to luxuriate in answering the question ‘what do I want’? And to set a course for more mindful and less manically busy work lives. Drop us a line if you’d like to know more.
The UK’s leading inspiring speaking expert & best-selling author. Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a multiple-award winning public speaking coach, founder of Ginger and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).