Because we failed to focus on people, the burned-out are stopping. An unofficial strike is underway. Those who can take long or short-term disability are walking away from the job. Their positions left unmanned. The result? We can’t focus on our business priorities. So what now? 

“I’m Just Sooooo Busy!” 

When you bump into someone you haven’t seen in a while, its normal to ask them how they’re doing. 

“How are things?” 

“Things are busy. Like CRAZY busy”. 

Catch yourself saying it next time someone asks how YOU are. We say it so much, it’s lost its meaning.  

Try asking a crazy busy person what they’re so busy with. You’ll get a long list of projects. Far too many at once. 

This is most problematic when we have a real fire to put out. A problem that needs solving. A crisis. Margins are shrinking, customers are leaving, quality is suffering. Did that new manager just quit? 

Teammates are grumbling, profits are tumbling, money is missing. Oh shit…we’re in the news! 

These symptoms have root causes. They’re easy to find and usually easy enough to solve. Yet, they persist – sometimes for years – even though we know how bad it is. We’re aware of the devastating effects of inaction. Why aren’t we able to stop the bleeding? 

“You don’t understand – we’re too busy.” 

What surfaces at the individual level also exists at the organizational level. Because “busy” is a badge of honour. 

Busy is a generalized symptom. 

Busy is an excuse. 

And that’s a problem. To be crazy busy means you haven’t got control of your time. You’re in reactive mode. The brakes have failed. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be ‘crazy’. 

If you’re crazy busy, you’re not saying “no” to low-priority items. Which means you’re not prioritizing. Someone is piling work on your desk behind your back. And you’re letting them get away with it. 


Because busy is a badge. 

But as long as busy is the norm, we won’t be able to put time against those burning issues. The ones that threaten our very existence. 

What exactly are we busy with? You’d expect to see a list of high-priority initiatives. Secret planning meetings for the 10-year roadmap. Strategy sessions for a new client acquisition. Not exactly. 

The truth is we don’t know what we’re busy with. Meetings. Admin work. Interruptions. Important requests for help from clients or colleagues. We’re definitely working long hours, and doing lots of stuff. But there’s a feeling that, at the end of the day, we’re empty-handed. Not much to show for all that effort. I dare say that we haven’t done much meaningful work at all. How can this be? 

We work on the less meaningful stuff on purpose. How else can we make sense of the fact that we’re treading water despite long hours? Why else would we struggle to address critical threats – yet always show up to status meetings on time? 

I have a theory. 

Could it be that busy-ness keeps us from facing the hard things? The things we fear? If we are too busy to address key issues, then we never have to stare down our sense of inadequacy to solve the problem. Instead, we could PERMIT that status meeting to go 30 minutes over. We could ALLOW that accountability spreadsheet to get hopelessly complex. These are easy to schedule because they don’t test what we’re made of. Taking that new mandatory training module won’t reveal the limits of your resolve. 

You’ll be busy, but you won’t need to be brave. Busy is a badge – but not the kind that heroes wear. 

But how can we do that? Courage in action is teachable. So is living by a creed. But not to everybody. At least not all at once. Your best hope is to connect with as many people as you can. Readiness is key. At any given moment, certain people are ready NOW. Others won’t be, and that’s fine. Focus on the inspired – or the sick-and-tired. They’ll be receptive to new techniques for saying no. To doing the highest priority first. To questioning the value of the way we’ve always done things. 

Helping companies optimize their time isn’t enough. Individuals need to train to choose courage. Every time. We need to set the hero’s example. Courage is the decision to choose what MUST be done rather than what could be done. The highest value outcomes are always the hardest. If they were easy, they’d be done already. 

Others will see the example you set, and the outcomes your actions cause. That may inspire them, or expose a gap. A pain point. When it does, they’ll become ready. In their own time. 

Others will never be ready. We have to accept this too. Some have a ways to go, and some will end up belonging elsewhere. You don’t need to reach them all. You can’t. But you don’t need to. 

Change starts with a few. The right trailblazers can’t resist the blaze. Stop trying to plan a global transformation. You don’t need a plan to flip all hands because that was never going to happen anyway. 

Just a few. The select few. 

Who are they? If you’re watching and listening, you’ll know.