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  • Frank Fortner

A Beautiful Day To Stop Being "Too Busy"

Twice in the past few weeks, I watched "A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood" about the legendary Fred Rogers, or "Mr. Rogers," as most of us called him as a child. Tom Hanks, in my opinion, did a masterful job of portraying this extraordinarily kind, gentle man and conveying two specific character traits of his that stood out as unusually strong. The first was Mr. Rogers' exceptional ability to "see" people, and the second was the way he made time for them, making them feel important, even in the midst of a busy schedule. I was moved by this portrayal and it challenged me to do better in my life. In today's ever-connected, hyper-competitive, self-promotional society, I believe we are losing the aforementioned abilities to really "see" people and make time for them. This is problematic for all of us, and especially so for those in leadership. Yet, how many times do we excuse ourselves by simply being "too busy"? We're too busy to meet with someone, so we delegate. We're too busy to pick up the phone, so we text or email. We're too busy to send a thank you note. We're too busy to engage deeply and listen intently. We're too busy to see others' needs, even those right in front of us. Somedays, we're just too busy to think, which means we're also likely too busy to see any of this as a problem.

Interestingly enough, most of us work very hard to become busy and to stay busy. Think about that. We work hard at being busy, but oftentimes, we won't work equally hard to give someone else just five minutes of our time. Therefore, "busy-ness" appears to be a choice driven by our priorities. Sometimes, we allow it to happen to us. However, I've seen some wield "busy" as a badge of honor or even a shield to keep others at bay. In the worst case, our "busy-ness" spills over into our homes. We tell ourselves we're working hard to provide our loved ones with everything we feel they need in life, but then spend so little time giving them the one thing they need most … us!

I've always loved the scene in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" when Ebenezer Scrooge says to the ghost of his deceased and fettered business partner, Jacob Marley, "But you were always a good man of business, Jacob." Jacob replies, "Business! MANKIND was my business." There is so much truth in this statement. I mean, sure, business is about making profits. Without those, there won't be a business for very long. However, the tactics of making profits involve people, because most of what we do is about people, for people, and with people. So Jacob wasn't wrong, even in the real business sense!

The real question is, given that we're all so busy these days, how can we do this better? I believe it starts with honestly asking whether or not people are (or should be) a priority. If the answer is yes, then let's stop giving ourselves an out, because nobody else will. From there, my suggestion is to simply DO ONE THING today. For example, minutes ago, I wrote a hand-written thank you letter to be delivered by the US postal service. It may sound old-fashioned, but the impact is as relevant as ever for the recipient. It shows that I took time, paper, pen, stamps, thought, and a trip to the mailbox to let them know I appreciated them. Tomorrow, do another thing. Perhaps, make a phone call to someone you haven't spoken to in some time. Or maybe make a conscious effort to give someone your full attention. You might take a walk over to someone's office whom you know has been going through a difficult time and check on how they're doing. Ask about their family. Inquire if there's anything you can do to help. Just one thing! Soon, it will likely become two things. Eventually, it will become second nature, and I believe you'll see a difference in those around you once they know you "see" them and you care about them.

The bottom line is that every one of us wants to be seen, be heard, be engaged, and feel like we matter. Every one of us also has the power to affirm that in others. If people are indeed a priority, let's agree to tell them so. Better yet, let's show them!

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