Top Ten Tips on...

Traps for Busy People

2 October 2022
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
Busy-ness isn't always good business. Here are 10 traps to avoid when you 'get busy'...

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1

Don’t over-promise then under-deliver

when you're busy and particularly when you want to build a business or make sure you keep your clients happy, you have maybe a tendency to over promise and then under deliver. It's so easy to want to please your customers, your colleagues, your clients, and want to put yourself in the best light. And it's easy in the here and now to feel confident and comfortable that you can deliver. And then when things become more real, you suddenly find that you're up against all sorts of obstacles that make that promise vulnerable.

2

Learn to say no

this follows from tip 1 - learn how to say no, because in the end if you don’t deliver, people won't trust your yes.

3

Be aware of the opportunity cost of any task

there is always an opportunity cost to whatever it is you're working on. Is it the best use of our time? Every time you choose to do something, you're clearly choosing not to do something else. So what you are working on should be at least as valuable as what you’re not working on.

4

Urgent and important are different

we tend to prioritise what’s urgent – which may mean we displace or deprioritise what is actually more important. It’s a classic example of the phrase ‘short term gain, long term pain’. It may be urgent to stay late a lot to get those reports out – but is it worth the important cost of watching your kids grow up, and taking them to the park? It’s another form of opportunity cost…Perhaps the sensible thing to do is to have both on your to do list – and make sure you move something important forward every day…

5

Don’t confuse busy-ness with business

it’s easy to be busy, without being productive or effective. For instance, you may be reactively busy, sorting a range of problems, but if you’d taken time to look ahead you might have been able to prevent some of those problems occurring. There’s a potential psychological problem here: being busy tends to make the time go quickly, and it gets noticed – and approved. Yet being proactive, on your own, may not get noticed or even appreciated.

6

Balance people and product

most of us like people and socializing, and the danger is that this takes time that cannot be spent elsewhere, delivering product. It’s a balance – you need to find time to build and maintain relationships, and also deliver results.

7

Avoid perfectionism

there are a number of real costs with perfectionism. A perfectionist may do more than is required, and spend more time and money that is really allowed – with a consequence of lack of time and money for other, equally important tasks. And if a perfectionist delivers more than expected to the customer’s delight, the customer will then expect that same, better, level of service in the future. So be clear what standards are required, and deliver them. Good enough may well be not only ‘good enough’ but actually the new definition of quality.

8

Use email notifications sensibly

if you are someone who has notifications all the time, it will be a distraction. So either switch them off altogether or switch them on for once or twice a day. You still get to see them, but they're less of an interruption during your day.

9

Plan for incidentals

so many people set themselves up with a daily to-do list that looks on paper doable, but actually is not because there's no account made of indicentals that are naturally part of most people’s work. The main example of this is being interrupted. Suppose you are typically interrupted for up to a total time of 1 hour per day. Is that 1 hour on your to do list? Yet you often will want accommodate the interruption – offering advice is part of your job. So put it on your to do list – as a sort of budget heading – making 1 hours allowance for this. Another neglected incidental is travel time – for example to and from meetings, or other sites…

10

Avoid the ‘when-then’ syndrome

here’s an example: when I’ve spoken to Derek and read the XYZ report, then I’ll get on with my response. But in using the ‘when then’ approach, you are making your outcome dependent on other events, which either you may not control, or, being busy, you just don’t get round to. My classic is: ‘when I’ve got some spare time I’m going to tidy up my office…’. Guess what…..

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Tips to help you deal with key issues such as interruptions, emails, overload, deadlines, and opportunity costs

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