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5 Signs You’re Dealing with Busyness, Not Business

5 Signs You’re Dealing with Busyness, Not Business

Think of the following as a sort of quiz. It’s easy to tabulate the results. If you say “yes” to more than two or three of these areas, you’re not just succumbing to “busyness” — you’re at risk of drowning in it.

Listen to yourself very carefully the next time someone asks how work is going and you answer “busy.”

Does your voice go up at the end, suggesting an optimistic and hopeful tone? Or does it go down sharply, as though you’re referring to a chore or burden that you wish you could shrug off somehow?

This may not seem like a very scientific analysis — and it’s not — but the way we talk about being busy can sometimes say a lot about how we’re managing the opportunities and challenges before us.

If you’re running a small business, for example, most people would probably expect you to be busy. There are sales to make, products to market and customer service issues to address (sometimes all at the same time!). Those activities tend to really ramp up when companies begin to grow, which is great, as long as you’re able to plan and manage the workload accordingly.

In some cases, though, “busy” can become too much of a good thing, if it means you’re not able to provide a great customer experience and you begin to lose business. The struggle to get this right might lead you to try a number of different things, some of which might not really be worth your time. This is what we’ll call “busyness” vs. business, because it requires just as much effort as more valuable tasks without really helping you achieve your biggest goals.

The nature of being in charge of a company means you’re bound to experiment and vacillate between important things that keep you busy and mere “busyness,” which is why it’s a good idea to conduct a little self-evaluation every once and a while to see if you need to shift the balance.

Think of the following as a sort of quiz. It’s easy to tabulate the results. If you say “yes” to more than two or three of these areas, you’re not just succumbing to “busyness” — you’re at risk of drowning in it:

1. Your auto-response is set to ‘yes’

We’re not talking about your email out-of-office notification. We’re talking about when you’re trying to get something done and yet still agree to a last-minute meeting, take a phone call that could have gone to voicemail or are responding to whatever lands in your inbox almost instantaneously.

While it’s true that being the president or CEO of a small business means taking on a lot, it doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to everything. It means only saying yes to the things that will actively make you progress one step closer to the next stage of your company’s development.

This has admittedly been difficult to do in the past, given that company owners had little choice but to make their best guess at what the future holds. With the advent of artificial intelligence tools such as Einstein, however, you can begin to take a more predictive approach to figuring out what to say “yes” to, and what you can comfortably wait on or ignore.

2. You’re mired in manual methods

Imagine if someone was trying to make a movie about working life in the early 1980s and saw you in your office. To what extent would it make the perfect set for the film?

Busyness tends to involve a lot of processes that are highly repeatable if you take advantage of the technologies that are readily available thanks to cloud computing. Unfortunately, running a business can be so all-encompassing that you may not have gotten around to that yet. It’s hard to be successful in the digital age, though, if you’re using largely analogue tools and techniques.

Are you constantly printing documents and dropping them off at a team member’s desk, for instance? Try using productivity applications that let you effectively share work with your team so that they can take on some things, freeing you up for more important decision-making.

Look for opportunities to automate other activities, like updating social media with marketing content or using CRM versus a spreadsheet.

3. You’re an ‘always in-person’ kind of person

It’s great when you can greet customers and physically shake their hands, or coach team members individually by inviting them into your office. For most business leaders, however, being chained to a desk will inevitably prove hazardous to their company’s health.

It’s not even necessary to wait until you’re sitting in your designated swivel chair to tick off most of the items on the average boss’s to-do list today. Smartphone apps allow you to get instant updates on sales, monitor the most urgent service issues and even manage your latest ad campaign.

4. What’s read (or seen or heard) stays in your head

Lots of business leaders recognize they need to be continuously learning and do what they can in their limited spare time. You might stock up on business books, for example, that you hear referenced at conferences or that are displayed in airport bookstores. Others tune in to podcasts on their daily commute. And of course there is a ton or professional self-development you can do by looking at videos.

Depending on what’s on your plate, however, it can be difficult to find the time to directly apply the lessons from these sources, which means keeping busy with them just turns into busyness. The secret is to let your reading, listening and watching be guided by your current business performance. Business leaders who stay close to what they see from their analytics, for instance, are in a much better position to spot a chance to use something they’ve picked up from a third-party expert.

5. There’s no sign of strategy on your calendar

No one likes to look like they’re goofing off, but some of the most important work true leaders do involves simply thinking.

Some may prefer the term “strategic planning,” but in either case it’s a situation where you can carve out enough time — a week, a day, or even a few hours here and there — to really evaluate your company’s next steps.

When you’re struggling to prioritize, consider this: booking an appointment with yourself to look at the data in things like CRM, marketing automation and customer service applications may help you avoid half the things that account for the “busyness” on your agenda today. And the sooner your schedule is oriented that way, the better.

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