Why Busy People Get Stuff Done

Last weekend I witnessed an incredible team of volunteers come together to put on a huge event at my son’s school – the Fall Carnival. Only this is a Carnival on steroids: 9 hours long, packed with 7 different food booths, a Midway of line games, 6 large inflatable games, 2 live bands, a student talent show and over 300 cans of silly string. Over 2500 people attend each year, and we rely on hundreds of volunteers (and great weather) to deliver a fun – and profitable – event for our school community.

The event committee for Fall Carnival is made up of some very busy people: lawyers, a few marketing execs, an HR exec (in addition to me – go figure!), scientists, teachers, a doctor, a mortgage officer, a personal trainer, a few small business owners and some stay-at-home parents with small children. Collectively we are a hive of busyness, and yet everything comes together well without many obvious glitches – just like it did again this year.

I was reminded this year by one of my volunteer colleagues of the old-but-true axiom, attributed to Benjamin FranklinLucille Ball and managers everywhere from Apple to Zappos:

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

Why are busy people so good at getting stuff done? It comes down to their hyper-productivity…

  • Hyper-productive people are masters at getting work done efficiently. We do more stuff in less time. That way, we have more time to go have some fun! I don’t lick stamps as a volunteer, but I can turn a text file into an email distribution list lickity-split!
  • Hyper-productive people follow the 80/20 rule and focus their efforts on actions that yield the best results. Fund-raising for a carnival? Focus on bringing in a few high-dollar donors instead of lots of small donors.
  • Hyper-productive people harness the power of teams by engaging others in achieving common goals. We are not afraid to ask for (your) help.
  • Hyper-productive people avoid the busy trap. Our badge of honor is productivity and our mantra is “Get ‘er done!”

If you happen to have some hyper-productive people on your work team, however, there are a few watch outs to be aware of. It is human nature when we need something done to go to those people who have a track record of success for us. Furthermore, it often makes good business sense to ask those people who “Get ‘er done” to take on the special project or lead the new initiative because… well because you know they can deliver for you. Keep in mind, however, that you may be overlooking people on your team who are very capable of leading a special project or initiative because you always go to your reliable “Get ‘er done” team member. Or, you may be overlooking a team member with a better idea, or one who would benefit from the development opportunity, because of your tendency to always go to the “Get ‘er done” person.

As for me and my busyness, I retired from Carnival planning this week and am hanging up my spreadsheets and laminator. I am moving on to the next busy thing!

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She is no longer a school carnival volunteer. You can reach her at hnelson@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.