The importance of being busy

busy woman at photocopier

Ask anyone these days and they’ll say they’re busy, crazy-busy.

You probably have had to listen to people go on about how busy they are. Ironic that they are so busy but they have time to tell to you about it! Somehow boasting and complaining at the same time.

Being busy is not the same as being productive

But being busy is can be a trap by making your feel important and ambitious. Rushing between meetings, jumping from emails to phone calls and always trying to squeeze more into the day. But at the end of the day the question is not how busy was I, but what have I achieved.

Longer hours don’t equal higher productivity

It is easy to start working longer hours. With a smartphone you can be checking our emails from the minute that you wake up until you go to sleep. Around half the working population check emails during the weekend and during vacations. And people think it makes them more productive.

In jobs where that rely on thinking, creating and problem solving then working longer hours won’t make you more productive. In fact it could hinder your productivity and performance. You need to be sharp and alert to see a solution to a complex problem or handle a difficult situation calmly. If you’re constantly checking emails nearly 24/7 then work is always on your mind. You’re not giving your brain time to refresh and recharge.

Long hours culture

Working long hours is a part of the culture in some organisations. If you’re not seen to be working the hours then people doubt your productivity. Management consulting is one of those industries where working long hours is the norm, however even they are finding long hours are not the key to productivity. Boston Consulting Group ran an experiment where they required a group of consultants to take one evening off a week and found their productivity improved. It also improved communication in the team and job satisfaction. Another study of British Civil Servants showed those who worked longer hours actually performed worse on a series of cognitive tests.

Competitive Overtime

In some long hours culture people are answering emails after hours are to prove they are working hard. In a recent survey 31% of UK workers admitted to sending emails outside office hours to impress their boss. Worst of all 12% admitted that the emails they sent out of hours were pointless, and 4% scheduled them to make it look like they were working. This created a stress for other employees who also felt they had respond after hours.

Set your boundaries

Ask yourself – why am I answer emails after hours? Is it to more productive? Or are you trying to impress your boss? Or keep up with competitive colleagues? If you really want to be more productive, then you need to set some boundaries as to when you will be answering emails so you have time to refresh and recharge. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

Jane PiperAbout the author

Jane Piper combines a strong background in psychology with 20 years of practical experience in HR and has a Masters in Industrial and Organisational Psychology. After 10 years working in businesses around the world, she embarked on an Executive MBA to gain better understanding of business. In 2008 she completed a MBA from Henley Management College. She used this knowledge to advance to senior positions in HR in international companies.

Jane’s consulting, training and coaching approach is a direct result of her psychology education, business background and practical, results-orientated attitude. Her experience in organisations across the world has given her a broad understanding of working with different cultures in international environments. She brings diverse experience from a range of sectors including airlines, engineering, education, management consulting and pharmaceuticals.

Jane is a Registered Psychologist and recognised as Member of International Society of Coaching Psychology. She has undertaken additional training in stress management coaching.

Three years ago she set up her own company, Pipsy, and consults to organisations on people management and coaches people on careers and stress management.

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