It’s the final installment of the four-week series answering one of our most prevalent Humans at Work™ problems: What do I do when there’s too much to do? My first week’s response focused on organization. The second week I outlined three types of conversations that can help leaders define priorities and possible outcomes. On week three I explained why it is important to choose a sacrifice before a sacrifice chooses you. This week I’ll suggest that our chronically-overwhelmed manager join a new kind of counterculture.
Dear Dr. Graham:
I get what you said last week about there being no miracle answer when my work plate is always full. But what you said about choosing my sacrifice scares me. I don’t see how I can give up anything and still be considered a leader at work.
Is there anything else I can do?
— Chronically overwhelmed
I do have one more suggestion. If you know you’re consistently overworked and yet you’re not willing to sacrifice anything, perhaps you should ask yourself why. You should make sure you haven’t bought into our current culture’s Glorification of Busy. Are you defining your worth by how busy you are? Some leaders resist breaking out of their busy spirals because their spirals somehow make them feel worthy.
That’s understandable. Our society now considers “busy” a mark of honor. People who have all the time in the world are viewed as unimportant, while people who can’t be fully present are somehow viewed as “Important.” You see this every day, as golfers routinely answer multiple phone calls on each tee and grocery shoppers answer emails on every aisle.
If you’re certain you haven’t bought into the Glorification of Busy, there is a second possibility you should consider. Make sure you aren’t using your busyness to avoid something. Some of my clients refuse to make a sacrifice at work so they can avoid spending time with their spouse. Others work long hours so they can postpone making the lifestyle changes that will boost their health.
Are you staying busy to avoid something? Then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your choices. Have you bought into our culture’s Glorification of Busy? Then perhaps it’s time to be a bit countercultural. Either way, it’s up to you to decide whether you are so tired of being chronically overwhelmed that you’re willing to make a change.