Management Talk: I am ‘horribly’ busy

How often have we said this to someone who knocked on our door or how often have you heard someone telling you this when you approach them for some information or help?

27 Jun 2016 | By Suresh Ramakrishnan

There are many who are and you can see it on their face - distracted, short attention span, looking constantly at their watch, attending to calls every now and then, the soft tone of messages and mails arriving every passing second, sipping through a jar of coffee or tea, a cold lunch/ snack left half opened at one corner, piles of paper and files strewn all over, and seemingly irritable.

I have interacted with several such people throughout my career. Yes, some were genuinely stressed and even sought help on how to reduce it. There were others who I believed brought stress onto themselves and there were a few who used it  more as a ‘tag’ to feel important or possibly to gain some element of empathy.

My lessons on how ‘NOT’ to be busy came from a superior I worked with several years back when I was a rookie. I observed him over couple of years to understand how he went about his day. For starters, he arrived and left on time. He would rarely throw a fit. His meetings had a pre-decided agenda and duration and he spent sufficient time reading that helped him with relevant knowledge to steer any discussion.

This is what I gathered over time:

The 15-second rule: He used to state that any information stored on your personal computer should be retrievable in less than 15 seconds. There has to be an archival methodology that helps navigate to the right file in the shortest possible time. This was applicable to emails too.

No unread by EOD: This isn’t possible if you get thousands of emails a day. So set expectations right and every happening at every nook and corner need not arrive at your inbox. If the volume goes down drastically, attention given to those that arrive is higher and response time is significantly better too.

If it can’t fit my calendar the meeting can’t happen: Most meetings are planned in advance and every attendee is intimated using the meeting option on mail. If it clashes with existing meetings, it can be notified to the group. Yes, there are allowances made for emergencies but they are usually rare.

Keen to be updated but not curious to know everything: If you have able managers and trust them as much as is required, they will take care of several projects that may not need your intervention. Seek regular reports but you need not scurry from person to person to know if things are in order.

Acquire skills to grow: You can learn on the job but it is good to gather perspectives of experts or seniors in the relevant field. Never shy away from a classroom; regular attendance to seek knowledge reduces stress a great deal.

Believe in speed: Optimise processes to ensure the efficiency increases significantly over time. Review projects to iron out pain areas and ensure the learning is implemented from the next one.

In today’s day and age when distraction through several beeps and tones is the order, it is critical to review if you are sinking in information overload - 90% of which does not help you grow. It will be a matter of discipline to sift through what you are linked to and keep only those that help you do you work faster.

So, how busy are you?

Suresh Ramakrishnan is the publisher at Haymarket Media (India)