The curse of busy

Why is everyone who works in internal communications so busy? Productive reflection is a skill which all internal communicators could usefully learn to help them create better organisational outcomes.

Why is everyone who works in internal communications so busy? In fact, why is everyone apparently so busy?

I don’t think it was always like this. There once wasn’t this overwhelming pressure to be constantly doing something to create outputs or some kind of outcome, or to be seen to be doing something or participating in something.  

Possibly one of the reasons why many of us are so ‘busy’ in the 21st century is the fake transparency that has been created by social media. This technology has shone a light deep into our personal and working lives, and has created a constant need within some people to share everything they do, including their busyness, whether or not that busy is authentic.

We need to be careful where this road leads. I’m a huge fan of Ben Elton’s books. In ‘Blind Faith’ he paints a picture of a dystopian near future where everyone is compelled by society to share everything on social media. The general population has no privacy and it is a widely held belief that only ‘perverts do things in private’. It has shades of George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ and the concept of ‘thought crime’. It’s an entertaining and thought provoking read, but if you have a communications or social media role you might be disturbed at where your work could be taking society.

What has this got to do with working in internal communications? Well, we are often put under huge amounts of pressure by stakeholders and leaders to be constantly busy creating outputs and the omnipresent societal pressure to be busy means we are conditioned to go along with that. Leaders and stakeholders like to see lots of content being drafted, designed and published on the intranet, internal events happening and chatter being provoked on internal social media. Much of this activity, and the focus on the sender rather than the receiver, creates the illusion that communication is happening inside organisations when in fact it isn’t.

In the very early days of my communications career, I asked to be given responsibility for internal communications in an organisation I worked for at the time. A new internal communications role was duly created and my director gave me the sole objective of ‘making stuff happen’, so I did, lots of stuff. I invented new channels, ran an ambitious programme of internal events and leadership roadshows and drafted and published lots and lots and lots of content on the intranet. I was very busy, and my director was a very happy man. Thing was, I had no proper objectives and because of this my busyness created no real organisational impact.

I blogged last week about why internal communicators should never do ‘owt for nowt’. Being busy in internal communications without a firm objective is a waste of time and effort. Now, after years of experience working in internal communications, CPD and qualifications, I realise that what I should have done in that early role, was to have identified and agreed a set of clear communication objectives which helped to drive the business objectives. Then my ‘busy’ would have paid off. You live and learn.  

Being busy is a curse and we need to bury the myth that being constantly and visibly busy always delivers the best outcomes.

As I’ve got older, I’ve learnt the value and power of reflection. Rather than leap in, get busy, and start to do stuff I often allow myself a period of reflection to let my thoughts and ideas coalesce. I let the problem or task just ‘hang there’ and allow the solution to come to me. Sometimes this period of reflection can last for days and I sometimes feel guilty about my inaction, but I firmly believe that this approach enables me to create better outcomes in my work and personal life.

Productive reflection is a skill, and one which all internal communicators could usefully learn.  It’s about giving yourself some thinking time to test ideas, play out scenarios, draw on past experiences and use some critical analysis to identify objectives and draw out solutions.    

Let’s take time to reflect more, and then get busy doing the right things in internal communications.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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