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Is Being Busy at Work Making You a Bad Manager?

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Every year a new study comes out that confirms what many already know - managers are incredibly busy at work. Between the daily 2.5 hours spent reading and responding to emails, the daily 6 hours spent dealing with interruptions, and the nearly 2 working days a week consumed by preparing for and being in meetings, it’s a wonder that managers get as much done as they do.

It also makes sense then why occasionally meetings get canceled, emails go left unanswered, and career conversations get put on the back burner; there simply isn’t enough time in the day for one person to do it all.

While this may be understandable once in a while, when you are consistently this busy at work, you may find yourself falling into bad habits. Let’s review some of those bad habits below which may be undermining your effectiveness as a leader, putting you at risk of burnout, and even making it difficult for your employees to do their best work.


4 Bad Habits From Being Too Busy at Work

  1. Canceling one-on-one meetings
  2. Ignoring emails, calls, and instant messages
  3. Forgetting to prioritize important vs. urgent tasks
  4. Not asking for help

4 Bad Habits From Being Too Busy At Work - Niagara Institute


If you're overworked or burnt out, "Work Smarter, Not Harder: 8 Ways to Take  Control of Your Day" is a must-read.


Canceling One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are your opportunity to receive progress updates, answer questions, provide guidance and feedback, and offer timely coaching. Not to mention, your employees rely on them heavily, particularly if it’s the only time they have to talk to you for more than a few minutes in passing. As such, you should take extra care and effort to protect your one-on-ones even when you are busy at work.


Ignoring Emails, Calls, and Instant Messages

Your employees rely on you to provide them with the information they need, make decisions, give approval, validate plans, and help them avoid mistakes. So, if you ignore their emails, calls, or instant messages when you’re busy, you may send their productivity to a screeching halt. While immediately answering every communication might be next to impossible, what you can do is create a “code word” of sorts that, when used, signals to you that your employees need your attention ASAP. Even choose a medium, such as instant messaging or texting, that you find easier to stay on top of if your email inbox is inundated with messages.


Forgetting to Prioritize Important vs. Urgent Tasks

When you are at your busiest at work, do you tend to jump headfirst into your to-do list? Maybe you even drop what you are doing as soon as something new comes in or pops up? If so, you might be forgetting to reprioritize your tasks and responsibilities based on what is urgent vs. important.

To ensure that whatever time you actually do have available is spent in the best possible way, take a few moments to run your to-do list through the Eisenhower Matrix and determine what should be done by you, what can be delegated, what needs to be scheduled for later, and what can be discarded.

Eisenhower Matrix Niagara Institute


Not Asking For Help

It is quite common for managers to go into a “survival mode” of sorts when they are busy at work and make the assumption that it’s easier and quicker to do it all themselves rather than to stop and ask for help from their team. Unfortunately, this tactic can create undue stress, lead to burnout, and even breed resentment.

If this sounds familiar, start practicing asking for help and delegating to your employees who have a proven track record, a high level of accountability, and whose judgment you trust. This will build your confidence over time so that eventually, you feel more comfortable delegating to more people when you are busy and the pressure is high.



Managers will always be busy at work. It’s the nature of the job. However, when you are so busy that it leads you to cancel one-on-one meetings repeatedly, ignore messages from your employees, forget to reprioritize, and not ask for help, you have cause to worry. Start by applying the tips noted above and those outlined in “Work Smarter Not Harder: 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Day,” but if that doesn’t fix the problems you are experiencing, schedule time to meet with your leader to examine your workload and approach in more detail.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Day