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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Busy" is not an appropriate answer

How are you? Busy. How's it going? Busy. What's up? Busy

Is it me or is this more and more the answer you get when you ask a friend about their day, their life, or... well, anything? Even worse: are you like me and find yourself telling others "busy" when asked pretty much anything lately? 

I react to events immediately. Telling users when they lose connectivity at a site, not the other way around, lights my fire. I strive to be the best at what I do and hate getting caught goofing off! I never want to be seen as anything but the hardest worker on the team; maybe not the smartest, maybe not the most talented, but the most dedicated. I have worked hard to get where I am today and work harder still to be prepared for the next opportunity. I always try to give my 110%...

When is enough enough though? Am I working so hard just to do that: work hard? What's the end game, the outcome, the achievable goal? What matters to me and when will I succeed if I follow the right steps? Where does family come into play and how is my work/life balance? Have I celebrated my successes today, this week, or even this year?! 

"A high performer knows when to turn it up. When their number is called, they give everything they have. They don't buy into the illusion of 110%. They know that 110% is unsustainable. Instead they focus on increasing their capacity so that their 100% is better than the competition's 110%.

A workaholic thinks "turn down for what?" They hustle, grind, and go H.A.M. all of the time. They have difficulty prioritizing what's important, therefore, everything is important in their mind."

See where you stand after reading Julian Gordon's High Performers vs Workaholics.

The Buck Stops Here

I am the boss, though. I need to lead by example. It's my duty to work all night in a school hanging 3 SMARTBoards and then show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to a teacher's classroom to smile and nod about how slow the internet is. It's my job. Am I content at the end of the day to go home after attending 3 hours of meetings and endless chats about personal electronics, yet only accomplishing an hour or two of actual work? How many weeks do I put off programming the switch to link the main building with the maintenance garage, all while devoting massive amounts of time to developing strategies to video intramural sports or email others to plan to do so? The problem is that maybe the invitation to meetings and committees, at work or voluntary, is more of a boost to the ego than I'd like to admit. I feel important and, to a certain degree, pompous. As a society we are obsessed with resumes, skills, and self-worth. Achieve, achieve, achieve.

Getting things done in a hurry is often more important than getting them done right! 

We are surrounded by fast food, MVP security lines in the airport, and express lanes in the grocery store. I remember my dad leaving carts full of groceries in line because the line was too long. We'd shop somewhere else, he'd say, and he was right: in the dog-eat-dog world of American capitalism time is money. I was brought up with a strong emphasis on "hustle," diligence in all things, work ethic, and enterprise. These ideas shaped me, molded me, into the man who never dared let a coworker arrive earlier or stay later, produce greater numbers, or deliver a better presentation.

My problem isn't ambition, determination, or dedication, though. The devil is in the details. Making time to do real, meaningful, efficient work is the key. By allowing myself to take on requests from colleagues I build relationships and form bonds. I take and take and take, but fail to delegate. Eventually there is a point where I cannot accomplish what is defined as my job in a given day due to the number of "busy" activities accepted from others. Seconds lead to minutes, minutes to hours, and the next thing I know I am imaging computers at 3:00am instead of snoozing in the library of the local school. Without a trading of duties or delegation, the "yes man" model is unsustainable. As a manager this also means you must take on duties from employees who fail to complete tasks, doubling the workload as you juggle your own assignments, directives, and deadlines.

Diagnosing Real Workaholism

So how do you know if you are really in trouble or just buckling down temporarily? I moved to the Bush from Anchorage and thought I'd just get my nose to the grindstone for a while and focus on work. I devoted my energy, my life, to the job and thought I would see fruits of my labor in no time. I traveled extensively, visited tirelessly with teachers, and concentrated on impacting student learning like never before. When was that again? Oh, right, 4 years ago... The trouble is we don't always realize what is happening around us and to us without taking a step back every once in a while. The following is an excerpt form a favorite blogger of mine who describes a...

...seven-question test called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS), modeled on diagnostic tests already used for traditional addictions.
If you have to admit that at least four of these statements sounds like you "often" or "always," the researchers suggest you might want to stop laughing about your overwork and consider intervention.
  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work but you don't listen.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, or exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively affected your health.

**From The 7 Signs of Workaholism, by Jessica Stillman

Hello, my name is Sam and I am a busyness addict.
Step 2 - change.