Busy. It’s one of the most overused words I have ever heard.
“How was work?”
“How was your week?”
“Oh you know, busy as usual”
“Do you want to pop out for lunch?”
“Oh no, I can’t today, I’m too busy!”
By no means everyone, but a lot of people wear it like a badge of honour, even if they are not fully aware of it. I’m definitely guilty using the word “busy” unnecessarily. It came to my attention when my 3 year old daughter repeated it back to me when I asked her if she wanted to do a jigsaw with me. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m busy.” She was ‘busy’ colouring and it broke my heart that she must have heard that phrase from me so many times to be able to repeat it.
My Busy Team
Before I had my daughter, I worked in recruitment for several years. I wasn’t a recruiter, I did the recruiter’s administration support so that they could recruit. So the busier they were, the busier I was and as anyone in sales can tell you, this can change from hour to hour. The team grew with the heavier workload and I eventually got promoted to run a team of 5-10 administrators, doing the function that I used to do alone. This is where I learned the true meaning of the word busy.
Now you may be thinking, “Of course you were busy, you were running a team Alison!” and I believed I was. However, I have since realised that I wasn’t. I wasn’t busy at all, I was just working inefficiently. The same could be said for some of my team. But the word ‘busy’ was thrown around several times a day. I’m not sure if it was a way of preventing more work coming their way, justifying their place on the team, a general throwaway comment or a genuine complaint. Eventually it was suggested for all of us to complete a time in motion study.
Now I used to hate these studies with a passion. When I was doing them for myself, I found them so time consuming it didn’t seem worth it. Once I saw their worth and asked members of the team to do one, they would also hate them. They were “too busy” to do it so they would either miss parts out or falsify it because they would prioritise their normal tasks.
We moved on to cold hard figures to manage the workload. It helped us see how busy we were without doing the time in motion study. We had questions such as:
How many temps were we clearing to start work?
How many temps were we doing the payroll for?
This was reviewed on a weekly basis in a meeting where work would be discussed. On the rare occasion when people were genuinely busy, work would be re-distributed if needed.
As a business owner, I still do this. Not a weekly meeting with myself of course, as that would be a waste of time, not to mention slightly odd. But I review where I have spent my time each week and use it to plan the following week. If my figures seem a bit off, then I would consider the reasons behind them.
So if you are feeling like the To Do list is never ending, monitor your output and track your figures. It doesn’t have to be a formal document, it just needs to help you measure how your workload is growing. If it is, and you really are too busy, you need to look at the whole picture to see why that is. It can be that you need more resources (additional staff, new systems, software) to address the pain points. It could be that your processes and how you do things are no longer efficient. Whatever it is, the data that you produce for yourself will help you identify the need for some tweaks.
It might take a bit of time to analyse, but it will definitely be worth it and give you the clarity you need to start making changes.
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