Is “Busy” to 2016 What Wayfarers Were to the 80’s?

By Kelli Brookman


Ah, the wicked cool status symbol of the 80’s –Wayfarer sunglasses.  They were everywhere: Risky Business, music videos, and they even got a shout out in The Boys of Summer.

I’ll admit it, I bought into the Wayfarer status symbol craze.  Or more accurately, a knockoff.  (Poser.)

So, what’s 2016’s status symbol“I’m so busy.

Possibly it’s age, but I’m ready to leave this status behind.

Status symbols require too much of an investment and sacrifice.

The problem?  The investment in “busy” means sacrificing productivity.

The result?  Frustration.

How many people do you know that spend the first part of a conversation rattling off their meetings, phone calls and unanswered emails?  And how many times do you hear their frustration: “I haven’t accomplished anything that was on my list today.” 

Why do we talk so much about being busy?

First, talking about ourselves is rewarding.  Researchers have determined that when we talk about ourselves the brain triggers the same feelings of pleasure as food or money.  In fact, researchers determined people would forgo money and food in order to talk more about themselves.  (I’m still struggling with this finding.  I cannot imagine forgoing chocolate for any reason.)

Second, people who have meaningful, substantive conversations are happier.  As ridiculous as it sounds, telling everybody how busy you are usually results in a conversation – simply answering “Well, thank you” to “How are you doing?” doesn’t.

Like status symbols, talking about being busy may feel good and create the illusion of importance and success, but it doesn’t deliver.

So now what?

Focus on M.O.S.T.

On Your Business


Ask yourself:  What’s my mission for________ (myself, my family, my job, etc.)  and how am I reflecting this mission on a daily basis?

Click on any article about a successful leader and you’ll find they have a mission.  It sounds simple and trite because we hear it so often, but it’s true.

Success isn’t defined by how busy you are; it is defined by living your mission.

Productive people plan, review, and take action on their mission daily.

Focus on your mission.

On Your Business

Ask yourself:  How much time am I truly dedicating to working on my business?

Think about it this way – busy people spend time working in their business – productive people spend time working on their business.

If you’re being managed by your business, then start each day with a 15-minute focus ON your business.

Really?  Fifteen minutes?  It sounds ridiculously small (that’s the idea), but it tallies up to over 60 hours a year. Yes, you’ll want to increase this time, but if you aren’t focusing on your business isn’t a daily 15-minute focus better than nothing?

Focus is the opposite of multitasking (which is probably what got you to “busy” in the first place).  Email off, phone off, and any other distractions – off.

Focus on your business.


Ask yourself:   Am I looking to be valued for all the tasks I’m completing or for the results I’m delivering?

Rather than living in perpetual busyness (being reactive), invest in creating a strategy for: results you want to deliver, how you will get there, when you will deliver, and who can help you deliver.  (Don’t these sound like great areas to create strategy around during your 15-minute focus?)

Define and own your value through results you deliver, not the tasks you complete.

Move from being reactive to proactive.

Focus on strategy.


Ask yourself:  Am I tackling problems that would be better served if somebody else tackled them?

Of course you are – that’s why you’re busy.

Tackling means putting your strategy into action. Constant busyness can mean getting lost in somebody else’s priorities or hiding from your own.

If you’re a manager, it is easy to fall into the habit of handling your team’s problems all day long.  There will always be issues that are best handled by you, but remember part of your job is to coach and develop people to the next level.  If you jump in on every problem, you run the risk of your direct reports never developing the skills to tackle their own growth.

Focus on tackling your goals, so that you can lead others to tackle their own.

True Status Symbol.

Status symbols make people appear successful even when they’re not.  Getting caught up in “busy” can do the same.

The true status at the end of the day, at the end of the week, and (cue melodramatic music) at the end of your life is:

Did you succeed in your purpose?

Focus on living your Mission, On your business, on your Strategy, and onTackling the steps to get you there.

Investing in being productive speaks louder than investing in and sacrificing for a status symbol.  Even if it’s totally righteous.

I’m ready to be out of fashion – are you willing to join me?  Will you share with me what you do to stay productive?

The original article can be found here: