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The busy gene

 Few things light me up more than when a coaching client or Vistage member emails with me a thought provoking question inspired by our conversations.

Today I received this email:

 “I read a book by Michael Lewis called, "The Undoing Project" and it tells the story of the relationship between Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two of the fathers of behavioral economics. Maybe you have already read it. One thing Amos said to a colleague was "The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours."

Do you think there is an application of this message to how leaders not only manage the time and responsibilities of those that report to them, but also the way they govern themselves as leaders of a business? Every VP & above leader I've observed or worked with seems to be the busiest person of all time (or at least give off the impression of being extremely busy).”

What a fantastic question.

I have this conversation often with clients on the verge of a major promotion to the c suite or to partner. They struggle with wanting to advance their careers but leadership positions are not attractive because they are currently filled by people who simply are not happy. They all appear to be the busiest person of all time.

My clients don’t want the job that requires them to be the “busiest person of all time.” Who would????? That’s crazy town.

As a result, there’s a serious deficit of talented leaders who want to move into executive roles.

My thoughts on this are as such…..

Busy is like an epigenetically expressed illness.  In very simple terms, epigenetics explains that disorders may be inherited through genetic code. But whether or not they are expressed may be impacted by the environment and other lifestyle choices. They essentially lie in wait.

For example, your parents and grandparents may have a history of heart disease. That does not mean that you will have heart disease. It means you are more likely to have heart disease if you do not take precautionary measures. And since modern day life is full of fast food and fun, you have to be a weirdo to avoid heart disease.

This is how I think of busy. You have to be weird to avoid it.

Everyone before us seems to have inherited busy. It seems almost impossible to avoid. To live a calm and joy filled [professional] life, you must take a hard right turn and intentionally choose a different path.

It’s hard, but not impossible.

Here’s how I guide my clients in designing a life (and culture) of time abundance:

 1.     Start with the role

For you and everyone who works for you, the job description and expected utilization should be no more than 80% of your available time after PTO allowances.


The math:      2080 hours is a FT year      

                        -Less 220 hours of planned vacation

                        -Less other company holiday time off

                        = Available time

If you assign the real amount of time to do your job (including a buffer for the emergencies and random shit that shows up every day) it should be doable in 80% of that time.

The remaining 20% is reserved so that you can do the following during a typical work day: eat, use the restroom, walk to meetings, stretch, and take a few moments between tasks to collect your thoughts and refocus your energy.

At first, you’re going to make some guesses at how much time things take. But if you use a good calendaring method (yes I have a tool for this😉) you will get pretty darn close at nailing your actual time needs.

Then you have to be religious about maintaining this high quality schedule.  There’s a self-perpetuating cycle of positive reinforcement if you intentionally commit to this model.

This way of working feels great and you are extremely productive and creative.

Alternatively, busy feels like hot garbage. 

This intentional shift is a personal philosophy that you are invited to bring into your leadership journey. It will make you an outcast. But people will begin to wonder how you are so genuinely happy and productive.

Your team will want to have your job someday.

You will be a culture builder.

That’s pretty cool.

May you Live and LeadWell,



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