One of my most valuable tasks as a leader, of my own life and of my organization, is setting priorities. Priorities mean NOT doing most things in order to concentrate on those of highest value added. I spend a lot of time and energy thinking of ways to skip steps, simplify procedures and get other people to do what I need to get done. As a result, things that used to take me days to do, I can now knock out in hours or sometimes I don’t have to do them at all. This is as it should be. Much of this happy outcome is the result of thinking about the process, i.e. not being busy.
There is an old story about a guy who is locked out of his house. He needed to get in quick and calls a locksmith, who tells him that he can solve the problem for $50. The guy agrees. The locksmith shows up, takes a look, thumps the lock with a little hammer. It opens and he asks for his $50. The guy doesn’t want to pay. “$50 bucks,” he stammers, “for thumping the lock? I want an itemized bill.” He gets it – $0.05 for thumping the lock; $49.95 for knowing how. We should strive to know more and do less.
All successful people are busy sometimes, but if you are busy all the time, you are either not in control of your life and should spend more time trying to figure it out, sort of like glancing at a map before setting out on a cross country journey instead of wandering Neanderthal like until you stumble over a route. I suspect most people are not as busy as they say. As the article says, many of us derive status from appearing busy all the time. Not me. I am a man of leisure and proud of that. If I can get more done than in less time, that is how I want to derive status. I am content if people think my success is the result of dumb luck because working hard for meager results is just kind of dumb.
Competing to be the busiest
We don’t feel important, experts say, unless we have too much to do.