The building business demands a lot!  There is always too much to do and too little time to do it.  Time evaporates in spite of our best efforts to get more done.  To-do lists get longer instead of shorter.  For many of us that leaves only one choice – work harder and longer.

What is it about time that makes us feel like it is always closing in on us, asking more than we have to give?

Does this sound like you?  If so, it’s likely you’ve become a victim of an epidemic called busyness.  But unlike the black plague, one of the deadliest epidemics in history, this epidemic requires your consent.  Its cause is an unrealistic and unhealthy need to always be doing more with less time in order to feel productive.  And it is exhausting!

Not only is it exhausting, it’s dangerous and threatens productivity rather than increasing it as we’ve been led to believe.  But, like all past plagues, it is curable.

If we know what causes it, how can it be conquered?  Unfortunately most of us try to treat the symptoms instead of the root cause.  In the black plague, it is estimated that 50,000,000 people may have died for lack of a cure.  Doctors were helpless and tried many remedies with little long-term results.  They treated symptoms while unaware of the root cause and therefore, had nothing to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

We can never do our best work when pushing the limits of our physical constraints.  Time is finite, but so is our personal energy.  Fortunately, personal energy is a renewable resource.  Time is not!  Time is an entity – a gift, which means that as long as we have any quantity of time we have choices regarding how we use it.  The root issue is not time.  It is us.

Busyness is a choice, not a mandate.  If time is a finite resource, we get only one shot at how we will invest it rather than spend it – every second, minute, hour and day.  Far too often we willingly allow others to take our time, or worse, give it away without a second thought, often unnecessarily or unintentionally to people, causes or deceptively “urgent” demands that are not in our best interest or those of our families and organizations.  We give others permission to rob us of our time, and in the process, our peace of mind along with it.

The cure: find and eradicate the root issue.  As leaders it is our responsibility to adopt and practice the disciplines that we want our people to practice as well.  We cannot just manage time as so many teachers and authors preach about today.  We must learn how to control it so it does not control us!  We must have a purpose, a plan and a process and ruthlessly follow them.

Your purpose is your WHY.  It is what drives you to produce something – anything of significance.  To find yours, ask yourself these two questions:  “What makes me angry?”, and “What makes me proud?”  It’s pretty likely the answers will help to discern what it is without which life would not be worth living.  What is your WHY?  Decide exactly what it is and hold fast to it without compromise.

A plan is a structure designed to infuse order into your days.  Without a plan our approach to dealing with priorities vs emergencies is nothing more than a random effort to do more with less time.  Anything and everything becomes important and all too often urgent.  Consider testing the 1% solution as a simple but powerful way to change your life.

And finally, any radical change in behavior must be practiced consistently to take root and replace old unproductive habits.  We need a process – a framework by which we can ensure our time is not compromised by others’ desires to take it, or our own lack of discipline for the way we use it.

To invest our time instead of giving it away or spending it, consider the ABCDE rating method for prioritizing tasks and responsibilities:

  • A: tasks which must be done today
  • B: tasks which must be done this week
  • C: tasks which must be done this month
  • D: tasks which can and should be delegated to others
  • E: tasks which should (and often must) be eliminated

Once rated, enter the A’s and B’s in your calendar for the coming week and then let everything else fill in around them.  The secret to success: ruthlessly guard your calendar and learn how to say NO with authority and without apology!

There is a cure for busyness, but it is closer than most of us realize.  It starts with identifying the root cause and implementing our purpose, plan and process.  The root cause is us!  Don’t be a casualty!