Busy to Productive

There seems to be a preoccupation by health business owners on being busy. At the beginning of the year, I was giving a reference for a past employee. As the conversation progressed, the comment, “The expectation is that they will be very busy if they come to work for me”, came out of the blue. I baulked but was unsure of why. Since then, I have reflected heavily on this conversation, my own language and that of my employees, and what I saw when I looked at the positions vacant for Physiotherapists. (At last count, about 30% of advertisements for Physiotherapists use the word “busy”). I have been increasingly convinced that the language of “busy” is not serving us well, either individually or as a profession. I am concerned about what this means for the culture of our workplaces, the well-being of our staff, ourselves and possibly the sustainability and longevity of the health professions if the language reflects the reality of ceaseless and unremitting busyness.

Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter, Faster, Better-The secrets of being productive in life and business and The Power of Habit, gives considerable insight into the problem of being overly busy in his conversation with Brene Brown. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-charles-duhigg-on-habits-and-productivity/

” Productivity isn’t about sweating more or working harder. It is not about spending long hours at your desk (sic practice) or making bigger sacrifices. Rather the difference between being merely busy and genuinely productive is about controlling how we think and make better choices rather than reacting to constant demands. (Charles Duhigg: Smarter, Faster, better- The secrets of being productive in life and business)

There is no question that our days as business owners are often more reactive than proactive. Our focus reasonably needs to be on seeing patients and ensuring that all the bills are paid. However, the problem is that many of us are so busy reacting that we do not think about how we could do things differently. The constant state of reacting is like functioning in a cognitive tunnel, dealing with the next most important thing, often leaving us feeling overwhelmed. A recipe for burn-out.

If living in a cognitive tunnel is part of what it is like to be a health business owner or an employee, I wonder what that might mean? Where is the time to be strategic or innovative, to check-in and mentor employees or for self-care? Where is the excitement and fulfilment coming from? If we are not proactive, how does this impact our businesses, our stress levels (the monster we create) and the retention of our employees?

Charles Duhigg says that “Thinking more deeply” is the one most killer productivity app throughout history. We regularly need to step back and ensure that what we are doing aligns with what is most important (Our why) and not all “have tos” or too many other people’s “whys”. Productivity is about getting things done without sacrificing everything that we care about along the way. For some more valuable tips, have a listen to the podcast.

Perhaps it is time to stop and reflect. Be a little less “busy” and become more productive. What kind of workplace do you want to lead. Perhaps, to begin with, we should look for new words to describe our lives and use them in our conversations (and job ads)? We, as leaders, are guiding the culture within our practices and the future of our profession.

Dianna Howell CMgr MIML MAPA

September 2021

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