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Diagnosing B.S.

In Tips, Trends on November 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

For Part One of this three-part series of entries on Busyness Syndrome, click here.

So how to you know if you’re infected? How do you diagnoses Busyness Syndrome (let’s call it BS for short)? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What gets your first attention – urgent things or important things?
  • Count the number of people who are expecting something – product, presence or communication – from you today. I don’t mean blog subscribers, employees or Facebook friends. I mean how many people do you need to talk to or work for one-on-one today in order to be caught up?
  • When was the last time you were caught up?
  • How many requests for your time have you denied this week?

I think what happens with BS is similar to what happens to addicts. The addiction escalates until what used to feel good (important, successful) doesn’t work any more. The addict needs more drug to reach the same high. We need more production, more awards, more success to feel good about ourselves.

The next thing that happens with BS has been defined brilliantly by Charles Hummel in his book Tyranny of the Urgent. Divide your life’s tasks and relationships into four quadrants:

The healthy person spends most of his time, resources and care in the top half of that chart, but also takes time to tinker with unimportant stuff occasionally. But the BS victim can’t get out of the left column. His time, thoughts, energies, resources and affections are sapped by the urgent. Urgency becomes the only trigger for action. Importance becomes an afterthought.

This is why men build great empires, but raise lousy kids. It’s why pastors grow megachurches, but let their fidelity to personal commitments crumble. It is why politicians manage approval ratings rather than spending. It leads them to be followers, not leaders. It leads us to be reactive, not proactive. It leads us to look at next steps (or worse – the last step) rather than new horizons.

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