Are you in business or busy-ness?

by Ron Potter

I recently went through some physical therapy for a rotator cuff issue. As the therapist was doing what he was trained to do (push your body beyond all physical limits) he asked: “Are you in pain?” He wasn’t doing his job well enough unless I was experiencing excruciating pain (or so I thought). But he surprised me when he said, “I don’t just want you experiencing pain. However, if you’re experiencing true stretching and the discomfort that comes with it, that is positive. But, the old saying of ‘no pain, no gain’ is not helpful.”

I immediately understood what he was talking about and I could easily distinguish the difference between the pain that was coming from a healthy stretch vs. something that just hurt like it was causing damage.

Unfortunately, I feel we’ve lost this ability to distinguish between pain the stretching in our daily business lives. There is a stretching pain from:

  • Being productive
  • Trying new things
  • Reaching for new heights and
  • Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

But there is also pain from:

  • Never saying No,
  • Tackling so much that we could never expect closure or even high levels of productivity and
  • Pain associated with the constant distractions of daily interruptions.

This is the pain caused by being busy. This is pain for pain’s sake. This is not healthy, this is torture.

Many of the teams I work with are asking for help to cure their stress. They know they’re in pain. You can see it on their faces. Their feeling trapped in busy-ness.

Business requires deep work. We need to be making better decisions than the competition. The word decide means to figure out what you’re not going to do, not just do more.

  • Not saying No.
  • Wall-to-wall meetings.
  • Conference calls
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Endless process of poor decision making

These are all signs of busy-ness and they’re killing us. Let’s start by doing some simple but profound things:

  • De-cide: Choose which option you’re going to kill.
  • Decision Process: Good decisions start by identifying the true owner of the decision. Most meeting thrashing is not over the decision itself but who really owns the decision. Determine that ahead of time, the decision will go much better.
  • Protect some deep work time. Give people space and time to think deeply about the situation. Wonderful and profound things happen.

Take a good hard look. Are you in business or busy-ness? If you’re truthful about the answer it will put you on a much healthier path.

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