Lessons Earned: How I Stopped Being Busy…Some of the Time

[Editor's Note: "Failure is the mother of success.” Thomas Edison tried thousands of light bulbs before he discovered his life-altering solution. Howard Schultz approached 242 investors with an idea for a chain of coffee shops. Nearly 220 of them refused the concept for Starbucks. It took Marie Curie years before she was able to isolate radium.

In this PRNEWS series, a partnership with the Institute for Public Relations, industry leaders share a difficult lesson. See the previous article in this series

In this essay, Jamie McLaughlin, CEO of JWM Talent, discusses how he learned to stop being busy...OK, a bit less busy]

Being busy can be a good thing. It likely means you are in demand, essential to your customers and staff and you are achieving things. But if it is your default setting, it can indicate you’re taking on too many activities and not giving yourself time to think, problem solve, be proactive and, arguably most important, invest time in yourself.

Being too busy has many negative connotations. It often means you're not present. You might miss opportunities and fail to prioritize effectively. Being busy can mean you don’t have time to think or invest in your growth or self-development.

Often I equated patience with complacency and confused motion for progress. Often being busy means you neglect to set boundaries and when you’re always busy, friends can become acquaintances, quickly.

Considering ‘being present’ was my 2020 New Year’s resolution–not being busy (all the time) is still a work in progress. But in 2018, two things happened that prompted me to reevaluate how I was approaching work and life.

A conversation with a business associate and a friend started normally:

“Do you have time to chat?” my friend asked.

Instead of saying yes, I enquired, “Why do you ask?”

“Because you always sound like you’re busy.”

Jamie McLaughlin

If she thought that, then it is more than likely that all my business contacts were thinking the same. I was not doing the job of a successful consultant–being approachable, available, and a good listener. I was definitely not projecting the image I had hoped. Add to this another realization: I had not finished a book in 18 months. Something needed to be addressed.

I committed to being less busy–delegating better, asking more questions, emailing less often and making more phone calls. As a result, I placed a higher value on downtime, whether that meant reading more, spending added quality family time or exercising more.

The results were exponential, and I benefitted not only at work.

Yes, I was a better boss, but I was also an improved father, husband, son and friend. I even got to finish a book or two.

Jamie McLaughlin is CEO of JWM Talent