Busy? Doing less = doing more – why we need to focus

“Hey, how are you?” “Busy! So busy!!” Sound familiar? What’s the deal with showcasing always being busy over choosing focus?

It seems we all have too much to do, so we try to pack more and more into each day. Yet the real key to being more productive is taking time to stop, reflect and choose.

Famously, Google ask their employees to take 20% of their working hours and do something other than work. As long as it’s legal and ethical, they have free rein.

Why? Creating space makes us more productive and focused. You know the frustration you feel when you’re struggling to remember detail in conversation, maybe an actor’s name or someone you went to school with?

But then you take some space…. forget about it, do something else. If you consciously choose to let go, how often does the answer pop into your head when you least expect it?

It’s the same principle. When you stop the “busy-ness”, great ideas and connections open up in your brain.

So how can you apply this? Well, if you have direct reports and you’re organised enough to create thinking time in your day you’re doing better than 90% of managers and leaders. You’ve probably freed up time in your day by delegating tasks to others – quite rightly. You need your thinking time. So start by scheduling that into your calendar.

But, since your people may not have anyone to delegate to, they’re not in quite as fortunate a position. And the more you delegate, the less room they have to move, or think. You need to get them creating thinking time too.

Great time management will impact staff effectiveness and ultimately the bottom line. Here are three suggestions to get your whole team thinking proactively, making better choices about how they spend their time at work and therefore being more successful in their roles:

Structure thinking time into the week. Encourage people to sit somewhere (or take a walk) quietly and reflect. Getting them into the habit of reflecting for 20 minutes at the end of the day before planning the next day’s work will set them up for success.

Leave buffers of free time in each day. When your reports plan their work proactively, encourage them to leave 10-20% of their day free. There will usually be something unexpected coming from left field, so it’s best to allow for this. If not, they’ll have the pleasure of finishing tasks ahead of their scheduled deadline, which is incredibly motivating.

Encourage ownership of priorities. Give people permission to push back and prioritise tasks that feed into their KPI’s over the general tasks that get delegated to them. Ensure they’re chipping away at the achievements that you’ll judge them on at the end of the year. It’s really easy for people to lose sight of the bigger picture and waste time doing the urgent, while forgetting the important.

These habits will stand your people in good stead throughout their careers as they take on more complex and senior roles – they’ll get more done because they’ll be more focused and purposeful, and you’ll all be a lot less stressed.

Try these tips and get so more out of each day.

Busy? No. Productive? Yes!