27 September 2023

Just getting through the week is not an option

Start the conversation

Lisa Earle McLeod* says being too busy to think strategically is no way to manage a team, run a business or conduct your life.

Do you start each week thinking you just need to get through to Friday?

People are busier and more tired than ever.

By Wednesday, the calendar is out of control.

By Friday, eyes are glazed over.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I’m a work in progress myself, and always eager to learn how to better maximise my time and manage my energy for the things that count.

Here are three things I learned from my friend and colleague Dorie Clark’s recent TED Talk, The Real Reason You Feel So Busy (And What To Do About It).

In her TED talk, Clark (who most recently wrote The Long Game) referenced two shocking pieces of research.

Some 10,000 senior leaders were asked: What is the key to your organisation’s success?

Of the respondents, 97 per cent said long-term, strategic thinking was the most important — nearly unanimous.

Since when do leaders ever have that kind of widespread agreement?

Yet, in another study, 96 per cent of leaders said they don’t have time for strategic thinking.

Ironic: They don’t have time for the single most important thing.

Unfortunately, I relate — and I suspect many of you do, too.

Intellectually, I know strategic thinking is crucial.

You cannot run a business (for long, at least) with nothing but tactical back-to-back Zoom calls.

Yet, the calendar is so full.

When is there time to think strategically?

It’s time for us to match our actions with our beliefs and to allocate time, no matter how difficult, to important strategic thinking.

Let me know if you’ve ever been to a meeting that starts like this: Hello, how are you? Oh, I’m just so busy.

Me too.

Clark makes the point that this has become the business-appropriate way to convey ‘I’m so important. I’m so popular. I’m so needed’.

That feeling can be hard to give up.

What would people think if you said ‘I have a lot of free time in my calendar’? What would you think if someone said that to you?

Would you assume they are unimportant? Or would you be a little bit jealous?

Collectively, we need to recalibrate ourselves and recognise that being busy is not always synonymous with adding value, or even achievement.

Burnout cannot be worn like a badge of honour.

Human beings crave certainty (and we’ve never had so little of it).

If you have a lot of free time in your calendar, it prompts the question: What should you be doing?

That’s much scarier than will I make it to my next meeting on time?

Busyness often enables us to avoid the existential questions: Do I like this job? Is my career on track? Am I happy?

Clark suggests that we sometimes look to work, over-working more specifically, to numb ourselves.

When you’re busy, it’s more challenging to worry (at least, temporarily).

Having a life that is not within your control is a terrible feeling.

Clark makes a compelling case, in her TED talk, for us to get honest about what’s motivating the busyness we inflict upon ourselves.

Real freedom is about creating space to think, space to dream, and space to choose how and with whom to spend our time.

It’s time to line our actions up with our intentions.

We know the future counts on our ability to think strategically, lean into uncertainty, and show up fully rested.

The question is: Will we make time to do it?

*Lisa Earle McLeod is the leadership expert best known for creating the popular business concept Noble Purpose. She is the author of Selling with Noble Purpose and Leading with Noble Purpose. She can be contacted at mcleodandmore.com.

This article first appeared at mcleodandmore.com.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.