January 13, 2020
In Chinese, the word ‘busy’ is composed of two characters: ‘heart’ and ‘death.’ That’s an awfully unsettling interpretation of a word we use and hear all the time in the office and beyond. But maybe the ancient Chinese were remarkably farsighted about the damage busyness does not only to our hearts but our energy and progress too.
It’s exhausting to be constantly busy—and it’s not even all that productive. Busywork and other time-consuming tasks take our attention away from important and strategic work. It might feel good to constantly do ‘stuff’ but it doesn’t get us where we really need to go. We’re too busy to think about what matters most to our boss, our department or organization’s goals, and the bottom line. After a while, all this unproductive busyness takes a toll. We’re stressed, demoralized, and burnt out.
What’s Behind All This Busyness?
The truth is, keeping busy is addicting. We become addicted to action. We subconsciously anticipate getting that hit of dopamine every time we respond to a notification or read an update. With every ding, dopamine (the ‘reward’ neurotransmitter) is released in the brain. No wonder we can’t stop clicking.
But the usual suspects—emails, messages, collaboration tools, and other notifications—aren’t the only reason people stay so busy. Legacy processes are also to blame. We hold on to processes that aren’t always the most efficient way to do things, but they’re the way everyone is used to doing them and no one wants to change. Sound familiar?
Take a Chance on Change
Change is an intimidating concept. Yes, we all know change is part of life now. It’s inevitable and necessary, so we should accept it with a positive attitude. Change is good, it allows us to move forward into the future.
But, change takes time to figure out and adjust to. We’re usually too busy to even think about change so we put it off.
Strangely enough, this is one of the reasons some people look forward to the implementation of new software, like an AMS. It’s an opportunity to look deeply at time-consuming tasks and processes, and examine whether they’re the best way to accomplish goals. It’s an opportunity for change to come into the office and work its magic.
But why wait for an implementation? You can review processes and practices any time. You only need to make the time. And, as hard as that sounds, it’s worth it because otherwise you keep doing things the same old way and never escape the busyness cycle.
Revisit the Strategy (Or Lack of It) Behind the Work You Do
As you go through the day, think about why you’re doing different tasks. What is the point? Identify the strategy behind the processes and practices of your day—or acknowledge the lack of strategy behind those actions.
When you reach the end of the day, look back:
Is there a better way to move toward goals? Is it time for you and your co-workers to become more proactive and less reactive about what you’re doing?
Don’t Try to Solve the Productivity Challenge Alone
You’re not the only one in your office suffering from the busy syndrome so don’t be the only one who tries to change how work is done—you won’t get far alone. Raise the topic with your boss and colleagues. Point out the negative impact of busywork on your department’s and organization’s goals.
Propose rethinking how you use email, social media, and collaboration platforms. Come up with a more sustainable approach so you all have time to focus on more important and strategic work.
Start a discussion about time-consuming tasks and processes. Brainstorm ideas for change. Commit to experimenting with small tweaks to start.
Look Outside for Solutions to Time-Consuming Tasks and Processes
When you’re bound up in doing something a certain way, for example, using technology in a particular way, it’s hard to see any other way to use it. That’s why outside perspective helps.
If you’d like to improve a process or practice that’s tied or related to specific software, talk to the technology provider or a consultant who’s familiar with the software. They can share what they’ve seen with dozens of other clients.
When our clients want to explore new goals and processes, they talk to their Customer Success Manager (CSM). Each MemberSuite client is assigned a dedicated CSM who works with their client throughout the year to make sure they’re getting the maximum possible value from their AMS investment.
Don’t stop there. Talk to peers at other organizations. Ask your technology provider or consultant for referrals. Or, if you belong to an association or membership organization, ask for help on the online discussion forum, or at an idea swap, session table, or networking event.
By looking outside for ideas and solutions, you can hear about time-saving processes and practices that have been tested by other organizations. This third-party validation takes personal bias out of the picture, so your colleagues are apt to take your suggestions more seriously.
It’s not too late to make a resolution to spend more time on work that is truly productive and less time on tasks that keep you busy. Make 2020 the year you reclaim your focus and achieve the goals that have long eluded you.
Find out how a Customer Success Manager helps the Michigan Society of Association Executives use their AMS to improve processes and meet existing and future business needs.