The Keys to Being Less Busy and More Strategic

This month’s webinar topic, Be Less Busy, Be More Strategic, drew record breaking attendance.

People at all levels are feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

You want to be more strategic, but it’s really hard when the work keeps getting piled on and the pressure never lets up. So how do you carve out (and defend) the time to be more strategic?

Here are some of the things we covered:

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Harsh realities

  • It’s up to you. No one other than you has any motivation whatsoever to make YOU less busy. Others only benefit from your endless busy-ness.
  • Successful people rise above the work. The most successful people were not the ones who were less busy along the way. They did not get to work in a protected bubble so that they could focus on what was important. They figured out how to deal with it.
  • Leadership is supposed to be hard. As a leader you are faced with ambiguity, crisis, not enough resources, too much work and too many demands. Welcome to being a leader. That is what the job IS. Your job is to deliver despite everything that lines up to kill you!

Work on what matters

  • DO Better. It really is “Be Less Busy” AND “Be More Strategic.” It’s always both. We talked about how to defend your time and focus on higher value work. By the way, this is a great summary of what I mean by “DO Better” – Less Busy, More Strategic.
  • Connect your work with business value. First, understand what the business truly values. Know the priorities of the CEO, your competition, and your customers. You need to be the one to judge what matters most. Don’t wait to be told.

Advise your executive

  • A Secret: Your boss wants you to push back (see also Saying No to your Boss). You need to catch all the work but not try and do all the work. We covered several techniques for doing this.
  • Not all requests are created equal. Keep a list of everything they ask for. Embarrass them with it. Get their feedback on what is still important. Make informed suggestions to your boss for how to prioritize to add the most value. Offer value by suggesting how to sort through it all.
  • Negotiate. You need to connect the dots for people and share why you are working on what you are working on, and why it is valuable. The more people understand what you are doing and why it’s so important, the more you will be forgiven for not doing everything.
  • Not all or nothing. Focus does not mean you stop everything else completely. Think instead about what you will do first. Then what you will do later, slower, of lesser quality or less robustly.

Build capacity, grow capability

  • Prepare for the future. Being strategic means being prepared for the future. Are you and your team ready for what the business will need in the years to come? Do you know what that is? Do you know how your jobs should evolve?
  • Get better at something. A critical part of being a successful leader is to both deliver work AND increase the capacity of what your team can deliver. If you only deliver work, but your team does not get more capable, when the business grows you will not be qualified anymore!
  • You, Your Team and the Business. We talked about ways to build capability so that your team can step up to free you up to solve higher order problems and add more strategic value. We also talked about how to help all the people doing the work to also step up and build efficiency and new competencies into the business.
  • Find a partner. It’s so hard to find time to be more strategic, so the best bet is to schedule time and to work with a partner. That way you hold each other accountable for using the thinking time for being strategic (instead of doing more work). It also helps you stay focused on the commitments you each make to grow your organizations.

Want to hear more of the discussion? Download the podcast of the webinar Be Less Busy, Be More Strategic or download the complete webinar including the podcast, presentations, and worksheets.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her new book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at .