It’s Time to Get Busy

Andy Merrill  Follow

Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” I’ve always firmly believed that there is inherent truth in this statement. Indeed, the busier we are, the more effective we must be at managing our time and, well, just getting things done. And, generally speaking, busier people get more done in a day, because they don’t waste time.

I hate to be bored. In my case, in addition to the daily demands of being a Partner in a New York based financial PR firm and being a husband, a father and a grandfather, I have “kept busy” by sitting on three not-for-profit boards, and in any free time that’s left (usually in the wee hours of the morning), I’m a member of a masters rowing club and manage to get out on the water to row or into the weight room for a workout several days a week and on weekends.

For most of us adjusting to the challenges of living in this global pandemic, however, it’s hard to even think about getting any busier. Eight- to ten-hour days of working from home with back-to-back Zoom calls, while juggling the demands of the household, including caring for kids, parents and grandparents, have become the norm and are all-consuming. COVID-19 mandated shutdowns and social distancing requirements have limited interactions and gatherings outside the house. There is simply no time or place for anything else.

I disagree. In fact, as we head into fall and winter and remote work becomes no longer a fun experiment but the new normal, getting busy and staying busy are the keys to continuing to live interesting and fulfilling lives and staying mentally and physically fit during the pandemic.

As the days get shorter, darker and colder, the environment we live and work in will naturally feel even smaller and more constrained. Motivation to our jobs, let alone anything else will be challenged. But even with shorter days, remote work, social distancing and government-imposed restrictions on social interactions and gatherings, opportunities will still exist to volunteer, support non-profits, join clubs, take classes and exercise. These activities not only provide a welcome break from the Zoom calls and the remote work routine, but they facilitate social interactions outside the office, build networks and new relationships and provide fresh perspectives and insights – all of which make us happier, more engaged and more productive at our day jobs.

I have spent most of my professional career counseling CEO’s and corporate boards on how to communicate effectively and lead through corporate governance challenges, significant transactions, crises and other special situations. But it wasn’t until I joined the board of a large regional hospital that I gained a full appreciation for the significant time commitment directors make and the challenges they face. When I eventually became chairmen and had to face the challenges of leading the board and the institution through a difficult governance crisis and succession in leadership, I learned a lot of humbling lessons. I also made some friendships and forged relationships that are invaluable to me today. Most importantly, I am a better counselor and strategic advisor to my clients having learned those lessons and lived for that unique time on their side of the board room table.

While I don’t love getting up at 4:30am, getting out on the river to watch the sun rise and get a work out with other masters rowers not only gives me time to think and reflect, it engages my body, wakes me up and gives me a surge in energy that carries me through my day.

Many not-for-profit, community and philanthropic organizations have been challenged by this pandemic. They are in desperate need of volunteers and next generation leaders to help them face those challenges. Graduate schools and local universities are still in business and have made their curriculum even more accessible by moving it online. Book clubs and other shared interest groups have learned to function virtually. While many exercise classes already exist online, outdoor running, biking, swimming and hiking groups have found ways to continue operating within the constraints social distancing. As fall and winter approach, dozens of opportunities still exist to indulge our passions, get outside, exercise, volunteer and give back, while enriching our own lives in the process. We just need to go and find them and be willing to make our lives a little busier. 

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