“In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.” ~Wayne Muller
Busy. Ever take a moment to reflect on this sickness that is afflicting our world? Or are you too busy to take the time?
“Even when our work is dedicated to the service of others. Even when we have good hearts and equally good intentions,” Muller shares in his book Sabbath, “our work rarely feels pleasant or healing.”
Ain’t that the truth?
The fact that I was dedicated to the service of others and had good intentions when I was an administrator was irrelevant. Some days, I didn’t even have time to go to the bathroom much less the time to talk to a resident.
I was busy.
Really busy. With important things.
Like meetings. Paperwork. Financial reports. Quality indicators.
Everything was urgent. Couldn’t wait.
And so I drifted from meeting to meeting. Never taking the time to think if gathering important people around the fancy wood table in the conference room would have any impact on the organization.
I went from report to report. Without stopping to consider if all those spreadsheets and pieces of papers were making a difference in anyone’s life.
Did all these critical tasks matter? Who knows? I was too busy to stop at the time to think about it.
The Problem with Busy
Busy makes us feel important.
It’s the standard reply we give when someone innocently asks how we are.
“We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others.”
But is busy a trophy? Or the ultimate trap?
What does busy do to you?
It robs you of the time necessary to make important decisions. It zaps your energy by doing unnecessary work instead of the great work that you are capable of. It wastes your gifts and talents on work that doesn’t really matter.
Busy seduces us. But are your efforts supporting the ultimate goals of the organization or are you just running frantically from activity to activity?
What does busy do to patients and residents?
Author Tom Kitwood describes what it might feel like to be a person with dementia. “…you have an impression of people rushing past you, chattering like baboons. They seems so energetic and purposeful, but their business is incomprehensible.”
Rushing past you, chattering like baboons. It’s not only residents with dementia that feel this way. Every resident. Each short-term patient. They all feel similarly. “They are too busy for me.”
What does busy do to your team?
Instead of setting the example of wisely investing time into meaningful work that matters, you set the example that frenzied reactions are the norm. When you are too busy to spend time listening to your staff, you miss out on their valuable input.
When you are too busy you miss out on the opportunity to nurture your team. To teach them the skills that they can use to solve problems on their own. (Which leaves YOU solving their problems, and hence even busier!)
Have you been ensnared?
The thing about busy is it sneaks up on us. How do you know if you have been seduced by the lure of busy? Here are some indicators:
- It is unclear as to what your goal is when completing a task or attending a meeting.
- There is not time to reflect on the “big picture” because you are so caught up in the details.
- You are stuck attending meetings that have no outcomes.
- More time is spent on urgent issues and interruptions than on your agenda.
- Big decisions and plans are put off because there is no opportunity to work on them.
In Sabbath, Muller shares, “When we are driving a motorcycle at high speed, even a small stone in the road can be a deadly threat. So, when we are moving faster and faster, every encounter, every detail inflates in importance, everything seems more urgent than it really is, and we react with sloppy desperation.”
Delight, or weep, at the fact that each one of us struggles with the hypnotic trance of busy. Each one of is driving a motorcycle at high speed. We are all chattering like baboons.
Slowing Down the Madness
Instead of a list of tips and tricks that may just make you busier, I’m going to give you one simple suggestion: Plan for a little white space in your week.
Time for you to reflect. To think.
Impossible you say?
What if you didn’t attend or host just one meeting this week? Perhaps it’s the sacred “morning report”? If you consciously chose to forgo one of your regular meetings would anybody perish? I’m guessing life would go on (as it does on the weekends and holidays without you).
Shut off the phone. Ignore the email. Close the door.
Slow down the motorcycle.