I find this to be incredibly true. People who are busy (and effective) can really cut through the clutter, and get the most important things done. They don’t try to do everything, they do what is critical-to-quality (CTQ). What needs to get done, gets done.
A few characteristics of “these” people.
1) They qualify the request. These folks are not suckers. They do not naively just say yes to everything. They scope out the problem and put boundaries on it:
- What does success look like?
- What is the progress so far? What is keeping it from getting done?
- Who is the decision maker? Who else counts in this equation?
- When is it due? What are the immediate next steps?
- When does my part end, and who do I hand it off to?
- Is this something I should be doing? Are you dumping this on me?
2) They push back. Too often, we accept the status quo as inevitable. Not true. Just because she said it needs to be done this way, DOES NOT mean that is necessarily true. Challenge assumptions:
- Hmm, I am not the expert here, but seems like it is ABC. . .
- Okay, but wouldn’t we save a lot of time is he just ABC?
- Right, so without seeming rude, why didn’t you just do it?
- . . . right, but without her buy-in, this is gonna fail, right?
- What is we call a quick meeting, and then decide ABC, would that work?
3) They are connected. They have contacts and know who to call to get help solving the problem. Often, the most intractable problems are not ones which require MORE work, they require smarter (high-EQ) work. They are cross-functional issues which span silos. They can call-in favors.
4) They like to win. The more you tell them that it is difficult, that no one was able to do it, that he will be a hero if he can do it. Dare him. Double date him. They EAT THIS STUFF UP. Remember, the head of McKinsey said the best consultants were super smart people who were a little insecure. BOOM.
5) They have the “freedom” to fast-track the answer. By the time you give it to this “fixer”, you are a little bit desperate. You are willing to get by with a painless B/B-. You are not looking for an A with gold-lining. Get it done. This plays nicely into the busy person’s position. They are allowed to be a little bossy. They are allowed to step on a few toes, and get #$)*& done.
6) They give you a MVP (minimally viable product). They don’t spend 300 hours finishing the job for you. No, they spend 5 hours sketching out the answer, and giving you some pointed suggestions. You buy into that, and they do another 15 hours putting the plan together. You say good, and then they put another 25 hours and say they are finished. You accept. They put in 45 hours, then you thought it would take 450 hours and $60K. Nope.
7) Prioritization. Busy people prioritize. Ask anyone who is raising 3 kids under the age of 6. No gantt chart will do justice to a mom-on-the-run. It’s all about sorting activities into 1) Now 2) Later 3) Never. Put a lot in #3.
8) Action works. OODA Loop is something from the military. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This is the classic scenario in Top Gun (affiliate link), where Tom Cruise is in a dog-fight with Viper. Constantly observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. Busy achievers are continually in a OODA loop. They know what is important, prioritize, and act.
9) Pareto principle. Everyone knows the 80/20 rule. 80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs. 20% of the superstars drive 80% of the revenue and the results. 20% of your workday is 80% of the goodness. It’s a non-linear world. Give the ball to the running back who will lovingly get it to the end-zone for a touchdown.
10) Brand. Firefighters get their reputation for a reason. They put out fires.