I spent some time with a business a few years ago as a consultant to help out with some of their marketing efforts. It was a nice place to spend time in and a nice business to be involved with. When I first met the team I must have been told four of five times how busy everyone was. It was good to know – it made me feel like there was a lot of energy in the house.

Since then, and not specifically due to that experience, “being busy” in a professional environment doesn’t mean what it used to (evidently, Guy Kawasaki touched on thispreviously).

When I think of being busy in general, I think of a parent who is up early to make the kids breakfast, get them dressed and get them to school, get the dog to the vet before 9:00am, get themselves to work by 9:00am, perform their job, take calls through the day relating to sick kids or a sicker dog, write-off the lunch break to pay some bills, head off to collect the kids from school, entertain them, feed them, clean them, and then convince them of why they should go to bed at some point. Most of those things can’t be avoided, and most of them need to occur in that order. Perhaps that’s just a cliché, but that’s what I see when I think of being busy.

In a modern work environment though, when a colleague consistently tells me they are busy, three things go through my mind:

  1. They perhaps struggle to prioritise their tasks;
  2. They have too much to do but are unable to communicate clearly why they need assistance (or are afraid to);
  3. And, if anyone requires their help, they won’t feel like they can take the time out to provide it.

Managing priorities and articulating the need for help to a manager can take some time to learn how to do well. But when being busy disables us from being part of the team and being helpful, our value to the operation is significantly reduced. Our specific skills earn us the role, but our ability to contribute and evolve those around us determines our organisational value. On the flip-side, those within organisations who lead well and are essential to performance, always seem to be accessible (or have assigned someone to be accessible on their behalf).

In enormous businesses where every micro-role has a team of specialists, this may be less significant. But in a country built on SMBs, selflessness and accessibility are essential in evolving the culture and evolving the personnel within it. If we are always too busy to contribute or be part of the collective, we resign ourselves to becoming a tradeable commodity rather than an invaluable facilitator of progress. Our most valued asset then, our ability to help, is sadly rendered inaccessible.