Stopping for gas: Working in the very important and urgent space (Being Busy)

Earlier this week, I was talking to an organisation about delivering a free PD session on up to date information about pain and the importance of everyone involved to be talking the same language. The crux of the conversation was about how we can work together to gain better outcomes for injured workers. The pitch went well and was eagerly embraced by the manager that I was talking to. They concurred that this would be highly beneficial information for their consultants to help in conversations with injured workers and the medical team. I recommended one hour, with enough time for Q and A at the end.

I was surprised when the manager told me that it might be difficult to get support for the session as the expectation is that the team is “on the tools”, during work hours, meaning that they are expected to do income-generating work. I was taken aback by the culture of the workplace although on reflection this should not have been surprising to me, as I know that there are many organisations where the focus is on income generation, billable hours and KPIs.

The culture of this work place appears to be on the output or being busy to generate income for the business. I am sure that they are all very well remunerated. At the root of this, it feels as if it fits with the concept of employees being commodities and with being dispensable. Certainly, the proof can be seen in the high turnover and burnout in this particular industry.

In the end, we negotiated a 45-minute session over lunchtime. The presentation was well received and a few of the consultants stayed around to ask questions.

When I saw Stephen Covey‘s (author of 7 habits of Highly Effective People) post about “Being too Busy to Stop for Gas”, it reminded me of the conversation. I thought about how easy it is, to be focused on the very important and urgent work that our businesses generate. I also reflect that this level of “busyness” is not serving anyone very well.

As health business owners, we know how long it can take to recruit and support a new employee into a role. It is counter-productive not to provide them with opportunities for growth and learning. To give them opportunities to refuel the tank in different ways.

I think that this is where the problem lies in the word “busy” for me. I feel when I read the word particularly in advertisements for new employees that there will no room for filling the tank. I see it and hear about it from people that leave health businesses or even the profession. It is frankly unsustainable for most people including business owners to continue to work in a constant state of urgent and very important, clinical or income-generating work.

From health business advisors, we hear how important it is to devote time to putting gas in the tank. That is the time, to work on the business and ourselves. The time when we operate in the important but not urgent space (Quadrant II). Time to reflect, analyse, strategise, plan, devise, mentor, advise, innovate and refresh. These are the times that create fulfilling and rewarding outcomes for ourselves and our employees.

Stephen R Covey: The time management matrix

Are we allowing enough time in our “busy” lives for us to spend time in the important but not busy space- and are we doing the same for our employees?

Dianna Howell CMgr MIML MAPA

October 2021

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