While friends around me grumbled about avalanches of work meetings and inefficient work matters, as if by magic, these two articles appeared in my RSS feed.
What we focus our Attention on is key. First, decide what is worthy of your attention, then allocate time for it. Finally, eliminate busyness.
A few years ago I realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.
What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”. I may have 8 hours a day for work, but I probably have 4 hours a day for attention.
Every day is the same 24 hour cycle. Every workday around 8 hours. Surely I could have found even 20 minutes a day to work with him (a potential intern). But it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the time. I couldn’t find the attention — especially sustained attention.
My mind fills up with a few key projects and that’s it. I’m absorbed by those. That’s where my attention is. Had I made 20 minutes here and there for him, I’d be physically present in that moment, but mentally I’d be elsewhere. And that’s not fair to either of us.
Time and attention aren’t the same thing. They're barely related.
It’s too hard to do business with busy people. They’re too busy to get anything done, therefore the outcome will never be reached. Save yourself.
Busy is covering up for a deeper problem. Busy is insecurity. Busy is a fear of facing the truth.
The trick he (author's boss) used was cool: if he didn’t want to attend a big-wig meeting then he would simply send a junior like me in his place. Our team was represented, and I got exposure to more responsibility and senior stakeholders I’d normally never get to meet.
Bragging about being busy is silly. Busyness produces less results, not more. Meetings are the worst form of productivity. The “doing” gets done outside of meetings. Doing happens when you have time to think.
Doers schedule thinking.
Outcomes matter. Time to think matters. And time with your family is fundamental for a happy life. A lot of meetings can be cancelled. Meetings can become emails or 1-1 phone calls. Or, like my former boss, you can use meetings as a way to train future leaders and to expose them to new ideas.
A back-to-back calendar uncovers a leader who is lost. People with time on their calendar solve the real problems, have time to think, and inspire others.