I was sitting with the CEO and senior team of a well-respected organization. One at a time, they told me they spend their long days either in back-to-back meetings, responding to email, or putting out fires. They also readily acknowledged this way of working wasn't serving them well — personally or professionally.
It's a conundrum they couldn't seem to solve. It's also a theme on which I hear variations every day. Think of it as a madness loop — a vicious cycle. We react to what's in front of us, whether it truly matters or not. More than ever, we're prisoners of the urgent.
Prioritizing requires reflection, reflection takes time, and many of the executives I meet are so busy racing just to keep up they don't believe they have time to stop and think about much of anything.
Too often — and masochistically — they default to "yes." Saying yes to requests feels safer, avoids conflict and takes less time than pausing to decide whether or not the request is truly important.
Truth be told, there's also an adrenaline rush in saying yes. Many of us have become addicted, unwittingly, to the speed of our lives — the adrenalin high of constant busyness. We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves "What's next?" far more often than we do "Why this?" But as Gandhi put it, "A 'no' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." Read the complete Harvard Business Review blog post by Tony Schwartz, president/CEO of The Energy Project and author.