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Work Talk

Are Busy People More Effective?

One of my ex bosses used to say, “when you have an important job you want done quickly and efficiently, give it to someone who’s busy“.

This is a pretty wildly used saying. But it is rather counter intuitive to think that the busiest person will be the most reliable person to deliver the task.

Turns out it is true, in some cases.

Being Organized

Most of the time, these ‘busy’ people you know you can rely upon to get this additional job done are well organized. They know how to prioritize their work and how to allocate their time to optimise efficiency. Allowing them to juggle many tasks in parallel.

Making the Right Judgment Call 

And these ‘busy’ people can take on yet another task because they are also able to make the right judgment call on the depth of the work that’s required to meet the demands of the request.

Meaning they will be able to quickly assess and decide on the type of information they need to gather, and in what level of detail, to realistically meet the deadline. They are comfortable and agree with the saying: “done, is better than perfect“.

For some who may be perfectionists or who are simply not used to having deadlines, juggling many mandates at the same time may be more difficult. As they will often have a hard time making the right equation between time available and depth of content.

Workload and Engagement

Are we more efficient when we have more work? There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. However I believe we naturally tend to accelerate our speed when we have a lot of work ahead of us — as opposed to not being busy enough. There’s a certain pressure that comes with the workload. A bigger workload will kick in our adrenaline.

In contrast, he who has little to do will feel he can take it easy, and may even become bored. Which can easily make him seen as under productive. So unfortunately, it is possible (and this happens in large corporations) that efficient people will end up in job positions — for example following a reorganization or due to a conflict with a new boss — where they will not be given much work to do and will slowly be seen as inefficient and non productive.

I’m also inclined to link employees’ level of engagement with their workload. Employees who are fully occupied will get the sense that they contribute to the team’s output, that their work is important to their boss and the company. When you’re engaged, you want to deliver, and deliver quality work. You want to feel proud of the work you produce.

On the other hand, an employee who has to stretch his work to fill the day will quickly be disengaged. Employees who are not busy enough will lose their motivation, feel like their work is not important, and possibly even lose their confidence.

In conclusion

So, the saying “if you want something done, give it to someone who’s busy“, can be true in general terms. But it will be true because of a combination of factors.

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