Rather than a badge of honor, busyness is often in direct conflict with productivity. When you’re busy, you confuse motion for progress. Lifehack.org gives us 20 additional reasons to not be proud of your busyness. What do you do when the length of your to-do list is rivaled only by the length of your call back list?
In part 1 we covered three things we forget: You are special but your situation isn’t unique, emotional intelligence wins, and you must slow down to speed up. Today we cover four tactics: Finish the job, communicate less, squeak properly, and manage up. Busy is a blessing and mismanagement leads to lost opportunities.
Finish the Job
It is easy to take shortcuts when you are busy. The weight of the next thing is overwhelming. It is an hourly effort to find the right job and get it finished.
In Beware the Busy Manager, by HBR, they introduce a simple equation: Right Focus + High Energy = Purposeful Activities. Once you know the purposeful activity, you have to finish. Remember, garbage in, garbage out. When you have the right focus, apply high energy and finish the job before moving on.
In the loan business, we see unfinished work fouling up transactions daily. You save hours and money by crossing the finish line 100% on every piece of work you complete.
One reaction to being busy is that we often practice “busyness transference” by sending more emails, leaving more voicemails and dropping off more notes. We believe that somehow makes doing the work easier. When we are busy, it is safe to assume other people are as well. Practice economy of communication by sending complete thoughts only when necessary. One technique I see used effectively is to formulate a draft email to your teammate and hit send twice a day with a complete list of questions or requests.
If you decide to send an email with one task every hour and then ask your teammate “did you get that done, I sent an e-mail”, you are setting everyone up for disappointment.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if it keeps squeaking, it gets replaced! Somehow, when we throw out that idiom in our daily lives, we forget the second half. As Mark Twain said, “Noise proves nothing, often a hen who has laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.”
Escalations and squeaking are essential for the prepared and effective professional. I propose that there is a correct and incorrect way to squeak. “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” -Daniel Goleman.
When you squeak, do three things: 1) Eliminate guesswork by communicating exactly what you need, 2) Decrease the work required by providing all the information, and 3) Focus on things that are controllable.
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Remember, you are special but your situation isn’t unique. Whoever holds your solution has other priorities just like you. Your number one job in managing up is to define priorities that align interest. For example, “this loan needs to be placed in front of the stack, because this is our builder transaction that has 300 units coming online in the next six months.” By tying today’s problem to tomorrow’s goals, you are more likely to create a positive result.
Managing up successfully is art and skill. Respect everyone’s time, align interest and practice thorough communication and you will get what you want more often.
Handling busy requires us to practice empathy, slow down and fine tune our emotional intelligence. Join the conversation below and let us know what tactics you use to handle busy.