People are generally very busy these days. It is almost culturally unacceptable not to be busy and to have too much time on your hands. I have come across people in my line of work who are simply too “busy” to be able to build up the important personal relationships that are required to produce effective work.
For a great article on being busy, and to read about the topic in more detail, click here.
However in the microbiology laboratory, I don’t want people to be busy every working minute of the day. If it takes 8 hours for a staff member to complete tasks A-Z then he/she will have no time to think about whether all the tasks A-Z are absolutely necessary, or whether any of tasks A-Z can be done more efficiently.
Everyone needs a bit of “thumb twiddling time” during their normal working day in order to think more clearly about what they are doing and why they are doing it. It is difficult to appreciate the bigger picture or to have a long term vision in your work if you are too busy.
Of course you need to have a balance between having a bit of downtime and standing about doing nothing all day. However I always try to emphasize the importance of quality over quantity. A person can potentially have more impact working 4 hours a day than someone working 12. I am not an advocate of people who “heroically” burn the midnight oil in the office/laboratory on a regular basis. Go home to your families and the more important part of your life.
Occasionally people can be busy because they are simply given too much work to do. However I suspect the majority of people are too busy because they are unable to say no to work that is offered or available. i.e. they simply take on more work (or do not delegate enough away) than they are capable of handling.
Personally, and being slightly lazy in nature, I never seem to feel too guilty about not being busy. I just enjoy finding ways to make myself and my colleagues less busy in the future. One could even say I do my most productive work when I am twiddling my thumbs….
p.s. Here is another good article on being busy.