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Busyness badge of honour

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

This weekly tweak is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.

I’m soooooo busy 🏆 Have you found yourself saying "I'm so busy" on repeat? You're not alone. In today's ‘busy’ society, we often equate our value with how much work we can do and how long we can work. However, being in a constant state of busyness can negatively impact both our mental health and work performance.

Not only that, with 42% of us stressed out at work every day companies are losing millions in sick leave, attrition and burn-out. Throughout our careers, our value is often attributed to overwork and overload.

Our appraisal systems have us aiming not just to achieve our goals but exceed them.

We are applauded for ‘going the extra mile’, ‘working through’ to deliver a project, staying late, and starting early.

I heard Rodney Evans of The Ready on a recent episode of the brilliant Brave New Work podcast talk about how she was back at work the day after her father died. I took pride in not missing a day of work after having a miscarriage. These ridiculous skewed standards we hold ourselves to are not working for anyone.

Being in a constant state of busyness means that when something unexpected happens, it can tip you over the edge. We are in an environment where constant change is coming at us. If you're always at capacity, you have nothing left to give when something unexpected happens. It also means that you don't have the space to learn, develop, grow, innovate, or be strategic.

This week's tweak to make work better - Shift your mindset on busyness and ditch the busy badge of honour

Here are some tips to get you started

Set Clear Boundaries

One of the best ways to avoid the "busy" trap is to set clear boundaries for yourself and communicate them with your colleagues. For instance, you can clarify your core working hours outside which you won't be available unless it's an emergency. By setting clear boundaries you can help hold yourself accountable to them and set clear expectations with your colleagues.

Lead by Example

If you're in a position of authority, it's important to lead by example. You are a role model. You can say balance matters until you’re blue in the face, until you exemplify it, your teams will continue to value busy. By creating your own boundaries and sticking to them, you'll encourage your team to do the same.

Reward Outputs, Not Overload

Instead of rewarding your team for how much work they do or how long they work, focus on rewarding them for their outputs. This will encourage them to work smarter, not harder. Doing so will create a culture that values outputs and impact over busyness.

Offer Support to manage busyness rather than rewarding it

Seek out instances where someone is constantly busy and overloaded and offer support to help them prioritise, say no, push back, or even provide more resources. Hold yourself back from praising them for going the extra mile or working through the weekend to get things done unless it is a true exception.

By making this mindset shift, you'll be more resilient in dealing with change, create space to ideate, innovate and create, and be in a better position to achieve your goals and reduce stress.

Let's make work better together.

Michelle Wallace


A Better Work


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