Not an actual race, but a kind of proxy one. Whilst I was walking at a decent pace myself (on my way to a meeting), I realised I was being overtaken on both sides by suited men and women with a longer, more purposeful stride. Then across The Strand, along Kingsway, and passing Holborn Station around lunch-time, I cut my way through crowds of shaking hands and double-cheek-kisses, assignations sandwiched between the morning and afternoon rush-abouts at work.
There was a consistent refrain in response to the ‘How are you?’s: ‘Busy...’ or more often ‘Ridiculously busy’ and sometimes ‘...run off my feet...’ Being seen to be busy is a kind of currency at work in the UK. It is ‘business’ after all.
The problem is that all that busyness doesn’t necessarily lead us anywhere. Aside from causing stress and anxiety, being in a constantly busy state doesn’t leave much time for thinking. It’s more important to be seen to be doing things than it is to be thinking about how to do them better.
Despite every effort otherwise, there is still too much focus on the inputs (the doing) rather than outputs (the results of doing). An outputs or results focus allows time for thinking – planning, working out how to do it, how to do it better, more efficiently and then getting whatever it is done more quickly and to a higher degree of quality. It’s about productivity.
So maybe while crossing Waterloo Bridge, rather than racing to get to the next thing to do, it would be better to slow down and use the time to think about how to do that next thing.
Making time for thinking ultimately means spending less time doing, and doing what you do better.
And at Holborn, rather than the ‘How are you?’s being answered by ‘Busy’, one day they might be answered by ‘Productive’ instead.