There are certain words you need to ban the use of, and "busy" is one of them. In knowledge-driven economies, "busy" is an outdated word that reflects a manual labor approach to work. Instead of "busy" you need to use words such as "effective" and "productive".
I have spent my working life telling people how busy I am. Sometimes I'm just busy, sometimes I'm really busy, and sometimes I'm so busy I don't have time to think. But what do I really mean when I tell someone I'm busy? It's basically that I'm doing a lot of stuff. I could be busy doing it well or badly, but that's not the point; the point is that I'm busy, I'm active.
I grew up on a farm and we were very busy during the summer. I'm certain that the saying "make hay while the sun shines" comes from Ireland. The reason is that the sun doesn't often shine in Ireland, so when it does you make as much hay as you can. Of course, the cows need to be milked and other basic chores done, so the making of the hay is a very busy time.
Have you ever done an all-nighter? I know quite a few people who see that as a badge of honor. For years I at least partly judged my own success based on the number of hours I put in per week. I felt that the more hours I was able to work per week the more successful I would be. I remember being constantly tired during the dotcom era, and being surrounded by people who were also tired.
I am certain that some of the mistakes that were made during the dotcom era were made because people were too tired to think clearly. That era of frenzy is over now but that same old tired ideas are hanging on.
Working longer hours is no longer the point. Sure, the longer I stay out baling hay the more bales I will bale. However, I for one know that if I spend much longer than an hour writing, the quality severely diminishes. I need to take a break and when I come back I tend to have a freshness and clarity.
Being busy is often an excuse for not doing something you should be doing. For me it has often been an excuse for not thinking, managing, and planning properly. Working hard is no longer the route to success it once was perceived to be. In an era of outsourcing and offshoring, success definitely does require hard work, but what is way more important is smart work. Basically, all the hard work will be outsourced, with just the smart work remaining.
If you want to have a successful future, you must learn to become a better manager, both of yourself and other people. The rise in offshoring, for example, leads to a rise in the need for clear planning, and precise project management.
The world is full of busy people, but there is a definite lack of quality planners and project managers. Stop measuring yourself on how busy you are. Start measuring yourself on how effective you are.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.