Thoreau once said, “It is not enough to be busy…The question is: What are we busy about?”
Americans are busy people. I’m reminded of that every time I travel overseas. If you’re like me, the to-do list never ends. To have a day free from commitments, I have to block it out and commit to a day of no commitments. (Crazy, huh?) But even that is a commitment.
The busyness of American life is the subject of a recent post from Chris Brogan. He steps back and questions what we’re doing and why. One of the biggest changes I’ve experienced during my professional career is that pressure to always be available. Before smart phones became popular, it was easy to leave work at work. Now I have all kinds of electronic distractions that demand my attention, day and night it seems.
And since we are supposed to always be connected, I have tons of notification options for the different apps I have on my phone or the social media tools I use throughout the day. Those things are, of course, in addition to countless voice mails, emails, and in-person meetings.
Brogan is right when he suggests that we have created a lifestyle that will allow us to spend our lives being busy and never actually get anything accomplished. The same temptation exists for organizations, especially nonprofits which tend to be highly relational.
The objective isn’t to be busy but to be productive. That’s why we spend time reflecting on the numbers. It’s the most objective means we have to measure how much our busyness is meaningful…or meaningless.
We can’t get our days back. Every day we waste is a day some child goes without a pair of shoes. That reality pushes me to spend my time doing those things that help us accomplish our mission. Sometimes the “other things” just have to wait.
Are you busy, or are you getting results?