“Are the least effective executives the ones who look like they are doing the most?

If you listen to executives, they’ll tell you that the resource they lack most is time.

But if you watch them, here’s what you’ll see: They rush from meeting to meeting, check their e-mail constantly, extinguish fire after fire, and make countless phone calls. In short, you’ll see an astonishing amount of fast-moving activity that allows almost no time for reflection.

Very few managers use their time as effectively as they could. They think they’re attending to pressing matters, but they’re really just spinning their wheels. The awareness that unproductive busyness – what we call “active nonaction” – is a hazard for managers is not new… For the past ten years, we have studied the behavior of busy managers in nearly a dozen large companies… Our findings on managerial behavior should frighten you: Fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. In other words, a mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful and reflective manner.

Focus and Energy

managers who take effective action…rely on a combination of two traits: focus and energy… Focused managers aren’t in reactive mode; they choose not to respond immediately to every issue that comes their way or get sidetracked from their goals by distractions like e-mail, meetings, setbacks, and unforeseen demands… Focus without energy devolves into listless execution or leads to burnout. Energy without focus dissipates into purposeless busyness or, in its most destructive form, a series of wasteful failures…”

Beware the Busy Manager, Harvard Business Review, Feb. 2002