Understanding whether we have a tendency to be busy just to be busy, rather than examining how it actually affects our productivity, can be a challenge.
As we step out of the holiday season, launching ourselves back into work, school and life in January can feel a bit daunting.
But when did busyness in and of itself become a measure of success? A badge? A rite of passage – ‘’yeah I’m good thanks, really, really busy’’.
If your calendar is full with back-to-back meetings and instant messages are pinging through every few minutes, you’re multitasking and not having time for breaks and lunch, it may feel like success. But in reality, how productive are Quiet Leaders in this ‘busy’? And for how long?
It can be quite a pull. I am needed, productive, important and influential. Who doesn’t want to feel valued as a leader? But in reality it might be overwhelm and burnout waiting to happen.
As a quiet leader, as a rule, we don’t thrive in these environments, but ‘fitting in’, doing what others do, can feel like it’s the only way. As the perceived urgency increases, extroverts need things to happen faster, yet when you’re taking on more information as a quiet leader, you need more time to process it before making a decision. Not a win-win situation!
At times it’s important as leaders to work at pace, to deal with emergencies – decisions have to be made rapidly and a good one, not the best one, will do. But day in, day out trying to lead as someone else, with an extrovert brain and a less naturally sensitive nervous system, is a different matter – drinking more coffee, ‘just keeping going’ only works for a time.
As Quiet Leaders our brains work differently, we need time alone to process what’s happening throughout the day, to link ideas together to find solutions, work things out. Plus rapid fire communication and interactions can drain us very quickly, without any pauses built in to think alone, and our stress levels increase. Which all detracts from our strengths – thinking deeply, pausing to make great decisions, listening, creativity, empathy.
So how to find the balance?
Stepping down from this sort of busy when it feels like the only way to do things, and a measure of conscientiousness and commitment, can be very hard.
So here’s a few things you could try.
- Get real about your strengths.
As a quiet leader, it’s unlikely your strengths are sustained energy and spontaneity in relentless interactions and meetings – your energy is going to get drained quickly. It’s just not who you are. So think about where your strengths in these interactions are – what are people asking from you, wanting from you?
Is it your wisdom, ability to reflect and come up with great ideas, insights, customer empathy, pulling intangibles together into a proposal? How can you give yourself the energy to utilise these strengths, so you can be at your best?
- Notice your energy
When do you find it hard to concentrate? When does your head feel like it’s so full of smoke and cat fur that you cannot have one sensible thought, and a decision whether to have tea or coffee feels like a life changing epic conundrum?
What happened beforehand that day or the day before? Did you have a run of 3 hours of back-to-back meetings? In the open plan office all morning under bright lights and noise?
And most importantly when are you ‘on fire’? Enlivened, thoughts and innovative solutions flow effortlessly… Is it after time reflecting on your commute? A walk? When you’re working at home? An early night?
Knowing this, how can you bring more energy into your day?
- Dare yourself to experiment
Take one action this week to intersperse your busyness with pause, and see what happens. Thinking of it as an experiment might help – it’s not thinking it’s forever, you’re just trying it out.
Block out breaks between meetings, turn instant messenger on silent for when you need to concentrate. Take a walk at lunchtime. See what happens. How do people react? How do you feel?
People may care less than you think – it may be the results they notice more.