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Being too busy is not the way to be the most productive. (iStockphoto)
Being too busy is not the way to be the most productive. (iStockphoto)

LEADERSHIP LAB

Why busyness is not a badge of honour Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

“I know you are such a busy person, thank you so much for making the time to meet with me.”

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Ever hear someone tell you that? I do, and frankly I think it’s silly. Of course, I understand that it is meant well, and that it comes from a good place but I’d like to challenge that particular place a bit.

Being busy is not a badge of honour. My choice to make time to meet with someone is also not charitable. If I am meeting with you it is likely because it is necessary, strategic or certainly important. It is part of my responsibilities as a leader.

We talk so much about “being busy” as something that separates us from the rest. As if my time is more valuable than yours. We use “being busy” as an excuse to lean on when things don’t go the way we want. I’m too busy to go to the gym, I’m too busy to take a day off, or I’m too busy to connect in a meaningful way with someone on the team. Being busy is nothing to be rewarded or be proud of.

Here’s the truth: we all make time for the things we deem important. So, what have you decided is important in your life? That’s right. What are you doing to make your life more meaningful? What do you do to regain focus, stay alert and active in the decisions you make about your life?

This argument will now take a turn you may not have expected. Everyone requires time to recharge and renew. It brings energy and focus that you need to succeed. If you don’t see the value in reflection, you run the risk of harming how you communicate and connect with your colleagues and loved ones.

I’ve seen the negative effects of being busy, of burnout, and as much of a concern as that is, it is not as bad as spiralling down a dangerous slope, making poor choices and losing who you are as a person.

Reflection time allows you to step back, step away, reframe and change your perspective. From reflection often comes great advancement – like the very important notion of being in the driver seat of our own life. Even I – the so-called “busy” CEO – allow myself that time because I know the positive impact that it has on my energy, my family, my teammates and my leadership.

I love Arianna Huffington’s perspective on life in her new book Thrive. Here’s someone who we all know must be incredibly busy. But she makes the most compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful today. “The third metric,” as she calls it, to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder, a life outside power and money. Imagine that! A life, where we put value on things like rest, sleep, quality of relationships, which – ironically – will absolutely lead to a successful career.

I realize that it may be unrealistic for us to be reflective, self-aware, and in-control at all times. But that is precisely why defining our priorities, and why building on the skill of being reflective is absolutely crucial – so we can lean on it and know how to use it, when “busy” gets in the way of our lives.

Peter Aceto (@PeterAceto) is president and chief executive officer at Tangerine Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

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