Hello Leader,

The blind spot we will examine today is a rampant problem seen in most corporate offices in the last few years. In fact, it’s an epidemic, a symptom of the times and of the dis-ease of culture and society. Applying this Key helps you build stronger foundation for durable success. We’ll be glad to hear from you with your comments. Please feel free to forward the Key to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

The Busyness Addiction

Too many managers confuse “urgent” with “important” and mistake “being busy” for “being productive.” Here is a question to think about: Are you always busy? Do you allow yourself to fall into the activity trap of never ending busyness to the point that it has become your second nature? Is “being busy” an identity or even a status factor for you? If the answer is yes, you might want to reflect on this and find a way to dissolve and breakout of the “being busy” identity. Too many people stay obsessively and addictively busy to build their sense of self-importance. They end up filling their lives with an excessive amount of urgent but totally unimportant stuff. It’s an unhealthy self-concept and a distorted self-view that says: “As long as I am busy, I am included. I am in on what’s happening and I am important.”

The story of Monty

Monty always walked fast. It was a habit he had developed to confirm to himself that he was indeed a very busy and successful man. This let everyone around him know that he had urgent things on his plate and was working very hard. It gave Monty a sense that he was important and he believed this was the surest way to gain people’s respect. Through years of dedication and hard work he rose up the corporate ladder to the level of Vice President. Monty’s perception of a leader’s image was someone who was always on his way somewhere, looking intense and necessarily short on time. He believed everyone else noticed that he was always focused on a mission and not wasting time.

In Monty’s mind this was the way to build his leadership authority. Whenever you spoke with him you would get the feeling that he was preoccupied with more pressing, important and urgent things than you. If you had the opportunity to have lunch with him, he would check his blackberry every 47 seconds. He was really very, very busy.

Some years later Monty lost his job. He was in total shock and denial. He got up in the morning and pretended he was still very busy. For 34 years his identity had been built on how busy he appeared at work. Suddenly, there wasn’t anyone waiting on his every move. Instead,there was a complete void which he filled with pretending just how busy he continued to be. So he got up every morning and now put that show on for his family.

Monty had been a talented engineer with a creative mind, which was the reason for his original success. But as he became a manager, he distanced himself from his strengths and focused on his perceived image of a leader as a busy person with urgent things on his table. He became addicted to this self-view. Now his self-esteem was punctured and all that he was left with was to keep trying to recreate the “being forever busy” identity. This was his internal program. He did not know anything else and his life began to unravel.

He was now unable to find a constructive outlet in his new situation. His children shied away from him, his marriage was in a crisis and his health began to suffer.

Do you give yourself permission?

Monty confused “Urgent” with “important” and mistook “being busy” for “being productive.” What about you? Do you feel you have to be constantly busy? Do you feel unease or guilt if you are not constantly occupied with something? Are you able to enjoy where you are? Do you give yourself permission to be at peace and to reflect?

To be great you have to let go of a lot of not-so-great things. In fact you have to learn to let go of the good so the great can find you. True, it’s invigorating to be busy with important things. It’s not so enriching at all to be busy with things that have no consequence for you, that are not aligned to your vital few important values, that don’t get you closer to living on purpose. To be great you’ve got to make space in your life for great things.

Most people understand the need to prioritize, but this is beyond organizing your day. This is building-in value for what you are doing while keeping in sight the quality of life you strive to achieve. Urgent just means pressing, it doesn’t necessarily mean critically important viewed through the perspective of your declared values. Busyness can also mean deliberately leaving no time to think because you are uncomfortable with thinking, reflection and patient waiting.

Reflect and act

Here is how you begin to break away from this self-inflicted blind spot:

  1. Plan to have 10-20 minutes at the start of every day to do things at ease, to be able to reflect and focus on the two or three most important things for you today.
  2. Create dashboard notices in your car, office, study and on your screen saver to help you break out of the urgency and busyness addiction. Here are some ideas you can use or, better still, create your own.
    Notes like:
    “Relax and take a deep breath”
    “What is most important for me now?”
    “Enjoy, be present”
    “Remember, you are the CEO” (you are the CEO of your own enterprise)
    “This too shall pass”

  3. Instead of treating every day as a marathon, do a series of short sprints. Get up or step back every 45-60 minutes to take a moment. Take a deep breath; enjoy the view and what you do.
  4. Ask regularly: Am I focused on the most vital thing? Is there something better, more important and more energizing for me to do?
  5. Allow an unplanned moment every day, have a spontaneous conversation, make an act of generosity, express thanks and appreciation.

It’s your turn now. Turn the key. Be your own leader.

© Aviv Shahar

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