Too Busy to Succeed

Don't fail to fulfill your opportunities by pushing off preparation
February 17, 2020 Updated: February 17, 2020

It was the morning of a major leadership conference and I was there early to help the presenters prepare. The stakes for this leadership conference were incredibly high. The presenters only had one day to set the tone for the company’s leadership for the upcoming year, so the company president was adamant about everyone being prepared for their talks.

One of the senior vice presidents, however, didn’t think that was necessary. She was a very confident woman, very competent, very technically sound, and so she didn’t think she needed to prepare.

She thought she had it all figured out.

All she really thought she needed to do was test-fire the slides from her 60-slide presentation. So she stood up on that stage and clicked through them, one slide at a time. Then she walked off the stage and she was done. She was “too busy” to do anything more than that.

When it was time for her to come back up and give her talk to the audience, you can imagine what happened. She got up there and started stammering and stuttering through her slides. She was obviously unprepared. Within seconds, I watched every person in that audience lose interest and start looking at their phones.

She lost them—she lost the attention of the leaders she was depending on to carry her message and vision down through the entire company.

This is what happens when we think we’re too busy to do the work. The “too busy” mindset is a form of self-sabotage that allows us to be dominated by the rat race. We’re all running so hard these days. It’s the grind. The stakes are high and the pressure is even higher. We’re constantly taking care of everyone else, except ourselves. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and easier to repeat the familiar mantra “I’m too busy.” Then we let that mindset dictate the tempo of our day. This is the mindset that keeps us perpetually locked in a “fight, flight or freeze” state all day, every day.

The operational tempo of the rat race will dominate you if you have a mindset that allows it to. You feel like you don’t have time because, with that mindset, you are not in control of your time. I can’t tell you how many of the senior executives I coach say the same thing to me. “I just don’t have time for this right now. I’m too busy to train for this.” 

Combating this mindset requires deep reflection. Reflect on your goals. What are the tracks you want to leave behind? What’s the impact you want to have in your family, community, and business? What big events or opportunities are coming up? Do you want them to be successful? Write your goals down, put them where you can see them, and then share them with someone that’s close to you so that you speak them into the world. It’s too easy for us to fall victim to the “too busy” mindset when our goals are not clearly defined.

Once those goals are set, you need to train on what it takes to meet those goals. That requires you to stop telling yourself that you’re too busy to train. Those words need to be removed from your vocabulary. Tell yourself you have the time and then make the time to do what it takes to actually prepare. You are not “too busy.” You are in control of your calendar and your time. And if you’re not in charge of your calendar, strive to get there.

If you’re going on the stage that morning, prioritize time for the rehearsals. If you’re going into a high stakes negotiation for a deal, make time to rehearse the negotiation.

It’s on you to find the time to show up and do what’s necessary to win. Commit to changing your mindset from “too busy” to “I have time” and do what you have to do to be relevant and impactful to those that you serve.

We don’t have time for anything else.

Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit