Why Being Busy Doesn't Equal Success

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 Have you heard of the hedonic treadmill?

According to Investopedia, the hedonic treadmill is “the tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals.”

You may have also heard, if not personally practiced, the phrase, “If you’re not busy, you’re not successful.” In the knowledge economy, achievers tend to fill their calendars with meetings, events, projects, and other to-dos simply to appear successful. Consumer-centric societies push you to work hard, buy things you don’t need, and work harder next week to buy more expensive things you don’t need in hopes these new tangible signs of success will deliver happiness.

Does that actually help you to achieve your life’s mission?

As noted American singers Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson once said, “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”

Intuitively, you know that being busy doesn’t equal success [however you define it]. Happiness isn’t delivered through being busy. Being busy costs you too much – your health, unbalanced well-being, work/life disharmony, inefficient use of time, meaningless relationships, etc. According to personal branding expert, William Arruda, branding certainly requires a high level of visibility to decision makers and influencers. But visibility is only part of the equation, and it’s not the biggest part. Demonstrating and generating your value is key.

Also, Gallup has conducted research and found that being busy likely hinders employee engagement. According to their research, managers who maintain a strong coaching relationship with their direct reports and focus on employee strengths drive higher engagement. Reflect on your organization’s previous year. What was the level of employee retention?

Instead of choosing a downward spiral of busyness, consider setting expectations and establishing ground rules for your team to ensure they step off the proverbial treadmill and into a company culture that is built on the pure joy of working together collaboratively, in support of your organization’s mission, and in the service of others.

Help your team manage their time and hold everyone accountable:

  1. Hard projects first: as you calibrate your to-do list, complete the most important and difficult tasks first and early in the morning. If these get done, consider the day a success.
  2. Block your calendar: eliminate all distractions that do not align with your organization’s mission and strategic objectives. In those select windows of time, complete tasks that are adding value to your stakeholders.
  3. Emails: block 2-3 periods of time per day to tackle your inbox. Read the email only once and respond immediately. You lose too much time by reading content multiple times.
  4. Say “No”: the most successful people are great at saying no to invitations/tasks that do not add value to the organization, its culture, and goal achievement.
  5. Journal: a great way to reduce stress is to connect the day’s events back to your personal values. Identify your core values and then take time to correlate them to the day’s activity. You’ll learn more about yourself and find meaning in stressful situations.
  6. Recharge: through reflection, meditation, or moments of silence, take time to find peace with the patterns of “yes” and “no” in your life.

With less wasted and more effective use of your time, you and your team can focus on more altruistic behavior. Humans love to help others who they feel a deeper connection to and tend to want to give in return to those people who have given to them. Within each of us, we wish to help others find their own cause of happiness. Remember that our hearts and minds need to be open and aligned to come together to drive the desired change. Through thinking, saying, and doing in harmony, we remember that all lives have equal value and can create change in the world.

Being busy doesn’t equal success. You can deliver more to your team if you pull inefficiencies out of your schedule and create an upward spiral of success through goal achievement, generating value, and engaging your team deeply.

Jump off the treadmill, be less busy, and help everyone find more meaningful happiness.

After all, the best things in life are free.


About Michael S. Seaver

Michael S. Seaver

Michael S. Seaver is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and a Thunderbird School of Global Management MBA graduate. He is the owner of Seaver Consulting, a career and leadership coaching practice and is the author of books entitled Fearing Mediocrity and Incorporate You™. In November 2013, Michael was named one of Arizona’s top “35 Entrepreneurs 35 and Younger” by the Arizona Republic. He is also Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Business and Workforce Development board. Prior to his current roles, Michael spent more than a decade in recruitment, training and development, operations management, and career coaching with organizations such as the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Banner Health, the W. P. Carey School of Business, and the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

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