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IS BUSY REALLY THE NEW STUPID?


By Matthew R Williams, Forensic Accountant & Vice Chair of NGIN


Per the widely acclaimed article by Ed Baldwin and viral video staring Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the phrase “busy is the new stupid” has become an increasingly popular piece of business jargon (the video being watched more than 190,000 times on LinkedIn alone).


But what does it mean and is it worth taking time out of your busy schedule to find out? If your answer to the latter question is “I would love to but I’m too busy” then this is probably worth looking into.


In short, Ed’s article is aimed at tackling the notion that to be seen as successful we must be seen to be busy ALL the time. Some side effects include the mismanagement of our time, our inability to prioritise people or personal pursuits and our habit of using the excuse “sorry, I was too busy” which for all intents and purposes can be translated into “sorry, you were not a priority”.


Many people I know are guilty of falling into this trap, I for one often do (writing this article around midnight on a work night for example), however I believe Ed’s article does not elaborate very well on how to go about fixing this issue, an issue that could prove to become one of the defining challenges of the 21st Century.


An apparent hypocrisy of our modern western society is that we aspire to greatness through the reverence of logic and science however we are very unwilling to use it on ourselves. By this I mean that we as individuals, once settled into a routine, will very rarely question it. This is often because we are comfortable with the route to work we have or the excel formulas we know, the thought of changing or discovering a new methodology proving more effort than it may be worth. However, if we each built into our daily routines a period of time dedicated to making our days simpler and more efficient, yes, a process which requires us to sacrifice yet more precious time, then the seconds and minutes saved are likely to compound and could prove to save us dozens or even hundreds of hours over the course of our lifetime.


For example, there is currently a popular show on Netflix called “Tidying Up”. In summary an incredibly bubbly Japanese woman called Marie Kondo goes to stranger’s houses (mostly families) and teaches them how to be more efficient at cleaning and maintaining their home. Whilst this may sound like an odd idea for a TV show the end results are often incredible. With stressed parents and families becoming a lot happier and healthier as a result of identifying the inefficiencies in their daily routines and finding effective methods through trial and error of addressing them.


Such a logical approach to problem solving is also becoming a staple for AI. If a machine can work on a project 24/7 AND at the same time can question, learn and adapt to become more effective at dealing with existing problems then it is no wonder that companies such as PwC and the BBC predict that machine workers will come to dominate automatable roles over the coming decades, endangering up to 47% of total employment in the US alone. Such a situation leading us to believe that the reason we lost our jobs was because we had not worked hard enough as opposed to the reality in which we had simply not adapted to work efficiently enough.


In summary, I am not suggesting that there will be a direct correlation between the speed at which you fold your trousers at home and your ability to hold down a job for the next 20 years. But what I do think we can all take away from Baldwin’s article, Warren and Gates’ video and the Netflix show “Tidying Up” is that for the sake of a healthier and happier life we can start by consciously applying a logical means of researching, testing and identifying what works for us and what does not, a process that will allow us to become much more efficient with our time and therefore LESS busy. Subsequently indicating that unless addressed properly being too busy really will become synonymous with the new stupid.


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