We are all busy. You may argue that much of the ‘busyness’ is phoney and unnecessary but the fact remains that whatever it is, however daft it may be, pressure of ‘work’ – as we define it – is making us too busy to work well. In the last week seven normally reliable people have let me down. “Sorry” has been the most used word from regular business suppliers and helpers from an online retailer – first time left hanging – to some top computer companies. ‘Sorry’ is not a reparation. I don’t think it’s even an apology anymore. Too many systems are letting us down. We know systems go through a Beta phase. It should be short.

I see five reasons for this potentially catastrophic trend.

First, meetings. We have to have them – sometimes. We have far too many of them and the ability to hold virtual meetings has enabled a field day for the ‘collective’ addicts. People who should be dealing with customers and suppliers are more or less permanently in meetings. The purpose of these navel-gazing gatherings is to endorse each other as a reassurance that, however tough the going gets, the gang will stick together and survive. Bunk. When the chips are down dogs still eat each other.

Second, communications. It is well known that writing or speaking briefly is harder than pouring out all you want to say in a long and senseless diatribe. To communicate well you must get to the heart of the matter. That requires thought. Ten minutes of thought is worth more than ten hours of meetings. If you want to know how to make meetings effective study our short programme “Making Meetings Matter”*. And take chairs out of meeting rooms.

Third, disregard for the value of other people’s time. Let’s say you book a taxi every day and always keep the driver waiting five minutes after s/he has arrived at your home. Those 35 minutes of waiting a week amount to 30hrs 20min a year. At his required earning rate of $60 an hour to maintain his vehicle and make a modest living that amounts to lost $1,820, no mean sum for a taxi driver. Keeping people waiting is theft of their time. Isn’t it?

Fourth, caring. Interesting that in recent surveys SIngaporeans have consistently said that what they want most now is a ‘gracious society’. Graciousness, however you define it, requires thinking about other people, not ensuring that other people think about you. It seems that we expect graciousness from others but often dish out dirt ourselves. If you simply don’t care you should look through a short piece on “Caring Creates Cash”*.

Fifth, self-discipline. Self-evidently discipline is important. How we discipline ourselves is bizarre. We waste huge amounts of time at work, at home, at play. It is “our time” so we are entitled to waste it. Trouble is most people resent the time they waste. Some get quite bitter about it. Beware, you can never recoup it. Nevertheless it is always possible to reform and make every moment “sixty seconds worth of distance run” as Kipling put it in his poem ‘IF’. You could always read the short introduction to a programmes about self-discipline called “Discipline Done Decently”*. It shows how you can be self-disciplined quite comfortably.

Right the wrongs of the five things I have said above and you life will run more smoothly, your relationships will flourish, your work will prosper.

And you will be proud of yourself. Rightly.

*to learn more drop a line to [email protected]

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