Slow Down; We’re Too Busy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

“Slow down, you move too fast,” is the opening line of the 59th Bridge Street Song, a wonderful Simon & Garfunkel song from 1966 often recognized as “Feelin’ Groovy.” If I were a composer rather than a leadership coach, I’d try to write a new song called, “Slow Down; We’re Too Busy.” Today, “slow down” is a key message that most of us in business need to consider.

The fact is, we are all too busy—way too busy. And such busyness is hurting us, individually, in our leadership—and also in our businesses.

CEOs and senior executives spend endless time in meetings, on conference calls, and in front of computers—hours and hours just about every day.

Yet most of their companies’ essential daily work is done by the people who work for them. Senior managers should be out of their offices, off the executive floors, and side by side with their people, having conversations with them. Senior leaders need to ask for ideas and feedback:

  • How can we improve?
  • What help do you need?
  • What advice do you have for top management?

We need to let our people know that their work is important and valued, and that they are appreciated.
What’s getting in the way? The Internet was supposed to make us more productive; arguably it’s made us less productive. Business results are not good, our workforces are not happy, and morale is low in many companies (in fact, I’ve read studies that state morale is in the 75 percent range).


The endless flow of emails is a huge problem. There is no easy answer, no magic solution, and no off-the-shelf product guaranteed to work. I have taken the Getting Things Done workshop by David Allen and gained many good ideas, but was forewarned that it can take two years to truly implement the system. (And there are many other effective productivity programs available.)

Yet I only know two people who actually get their emails down to zero on a regular basis. The rest of us struggle, and that weighs on our minds. We are not in control, and that is a major source of stress. David Allen’s premise is that our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to be relaxed.

Find an approach that works for you to gain control of your time. Start with emails and meetings: Set a time limit for each. No one wants to go to every meeting. Sure, information has to be shared—why not ask your colleagues to have fewer meetings? And how’s this—have stand-up meetings! Information will be shared, ideas will be discussed, and the brevity will demonstrate respect for everyone’s time. Sure, there may be crucial meetings where this may not work, but try it when you can.

We want to conserve our time and invest it wisely. To do this, we must identify our priorities. As a senior executive or an up-and-comer, our leadership has to be a top priority. The most effective leaders are servant leaders who work with their team members. The operative word here is “with.” This means

  • connecting with our team members
  • supporting them
  • asking for their ideas
  • listening to understand and learn
  • helping them learn, grow, and succeed
  • inspiring them
  • caring about them.

I wish I had the solution. However, I do know that low morale is prevalent. Our responsibility as leaders is to take positive steps to help change that. And we can only work towards improving morale and the spirit of our people if we slow down, come around from our computers and out of our offices, and have authentic conversations with those doing the work of our businesses.
Let’s slow down! Let’s be more purposeful and have meaningful conversations that will inspire our people, improve our cultures, and boost the bottom line.

About the Author

John Keyser is the founder and principal of Common Sense Leadership. He works with executives, helping them to develop organizational cultures that will produce outstanding financial results year after year, as well as ongoing employee and organizational improvement;

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