Too Busy is slowing you down and can hurt your business

It’ 2am on a Wednesday morning and I’m too busy to sleep so I’m sitting at my computer listening to the voices in my head telling me that this is normal, this is what you need to do to be successful in business, even when so tired and already on my third coffee. I need to keep going and stay busy because time is money and you need the money to pay the bills.

I wish I could tell you that this doesn’t happen often – but I can’t…

Until recently… In the past 3 months I have learned the hard way that being busy can seriously hurt your business, and if I had a chance to do it over again I would make different choices…

Why am I telling you this?

I feel it is important for other business people to realise that being busy is not always a good thing. Actually, it’s often a bad thing. More about that later…

Don’t get me wrong, I like to be a busy person – I don’t like sitting still. It makes me feel like I’m wasting time and that I’m not adding value to the greater process. That’s why I love being in business. I love being a busy entrepreneur: that feeling of having a number of balls up in the air while you’re juggling to keep the priorities straight.

The result of this is that I’m always doing something – or at least pretend to (Checking Facebook is definitely in that category). From the moment I wake up in the morning, to the time I go to bed I’m doing stuff… checking emails, answering questions, writing blog articles, creating advertising copy, paying wages, checking the finances, buying stock for the shop, designing and building courses, the list goes on and on.

Busy entrepreneur delivering keynote speech
The Art of Service invited by PATH ITTS (Ivanka Menken Keynote speaker)

Busy – or just faking it?

When people say that I’m a workaholic or that I’m such a busy person, I see this as a badge of honour. They recognise me for being busy.. hooray! People see that I do stuff, therefore I am productive and valued.

However, if I’m really honest … in the past 8 years I’ve become more busy but achieved less. I spend more time checking in with people online via messaging, Instagram, Facebook or other social media platforms. At the same time I’m spending less time with people in real time.

And I feel that chatting with people via Skype is not the same as being in the same room to discuss the topic at hand. Conversation just flows so much easier when everybody is present. (on a side note … perhaps it’s the physical contact I miss. I’m a hugger – I love to acknowledge people’s presence – and that’s just impossible to do via Skype. )

Reality check needed

I always feel that I need more hours in the day. And in the past few years I have this feeling that I’m super busy during the day, but not really achieving anything. When you spend 14 hours every day on ‘doing stuff’ but no clear deliverables you start to question what is happening to the time?! It’s almost like you forgot why you started this business. What was the reason behind the company? What made me so passionate, so focussed and so determined? And why am I no longer achieving goals with this laser focus?

Friends have told me several times that it would be good to use a time checking app to find out exactly how much of my time is productive. They even sent me several options with compelling reasons why I should use them.

I fear that I am not as productive as I want to be… so I’ve never used any of these apps. And besides… working 110-hour-weeks on a regular basis is really not something you want to brag about. It could be a sign that you’re not as focused or productive as you think you are.

While I was keeping myself busy, my body was keeping track of what was really going on.  My body couldn’t hide from the reality and in June of this year it found a way to tell me very clearly that it was time to stop. Not slow down… stop completely!

When your body says STOP to being busy
When your body says STOP

I had a tumour in my belly that needed to be removed. A big one. (yes I have photos – no I won’t show you… ) I went into surgery to remove the tumour, which went well. The tumour turned out to be benign which is super fantastic.

However, at the same time this surgery marked the start of 3 months of doing nothing.

For 3 months now I have not been productive, I have not been active, I haven’t added any value to any business process. I am listening to my body, sleeping and healing. Not just physically (which is a much bigger deal than I realised before I went into surgery) but also emotionally and mentally.

After 3 months I start to feel strong again. It is time now for me to face this reality check for what it is and decide what changes I can make.

Lessons learned..

On a personal level it teaches you to confront what is really important in your life. It shows you what your priorities are.

On a business level it has proven to me that the business needs to be able to continue to go on without me. That the processes and automation need to be in place to support the people who need to carry more of the workload due to the fact that you’re not in the business for a long time.

I also learned that there is this question I want to answer: “WHY do I do the things I do?” This is a major question as it impacts what I do with my businesses.

It’s time to stop being busy. Time to be more productive and valuable.

WHY?

Why does The Art of Service create online training for career driven IT Professionals? Is that really what we should be doing? Why 100% online? Why not partially face-to-face (even if this is in a virtual way). Would that make our students happier?

Why am I actively involved with the creation and publication of the courses? Should I be doing this? Or is it better for me and for the business that I focus on something else?

Why do we continue to focus on ITIL Service Management education? I know I’m good at teaching it – but does that mean I should? Or perhaps I should do more of it?

And why do I work from 5am every day answering questions from students, to ease their concerns or to comfort them when they are stressed for an exam. Why do I always have my phone with me? Do I really need to be on call 7 days per week? Or would clients understand when I take a day off to focus 100% on my family?

Being a busy entrepreneur is not a badge of honour

As the owner of the business it’s easy to fall in the trap of ‘always on’. After all – you’re the person in charge, you’re the decision maker and you know that every client is important to the business.

However… running a business should not go at the detriment of your personal health. There is a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed… the business should work for you! Not the other way around.

That’s my focus for the next few months. How can I make the business work for me more, while serving our clients and adding value to their life?

I was so focussed on what my clients need, that I totally forgot to check in with myself to ask what I need. Well, that has to change – time to stop being busy. Time to be more productive and valuable.

I’ll let you know how I go…