Why Hyper-Responsiveness is hurting your career

A common saying in football is that "Availability is the best ability." I watch a lot of football, and love analogies, but this one I couldn't disagree with more. Availability in a work setting seems like a great way to get ahead and stand out, but at is there a drawback?

It's common to think of responsiveness as a positive trait. It makes you appear dependable, helpful, and dedicated. People believe that if they miss out on a message, they might seem unreliable. There are major drawbacks to always being on and feeling lie you need to respond to people immediately. I want to be clear; I'm not advocating for people to ignore everyone. Think of this as challenging the limiting belief that "I need to respond to everyone right away or else I look bad." Responsiveness matters, but you need to be tactful and assess how important things are and value your time.

Here are some common consequences to always being on and hyper-responsiveness:

  • Never being in control of your day
  • Compulsively checking your devices and never being able to separate from work
  • Burnout

Responsiveness = Reactiveness

If you want a surefire way to feel out of control, be reactive to your environment.

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. This often can come from the environment where we work. When you don't know what is most important, it creates chaos. Flying by the seat of your pants is a surefire way to always feel behind and have no confidence in your contribution to the company. We can sit back and blame our environment and continue to live the way we are, or flit the script and try something new.

When you watch the airplane safety video, there's a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on before helping others. I want you to apply the same rationale to how you run your day at work.

Value your time like it's a resource they aren't making more of, because they aren't. When you move from reactive to proactive, great things happen. You can handle more because you are putting yourself in a more resourceful state than being helpless to the outcome of your day.

How creating a sense of elusiveness can be a superpower.

When you go out for a night on the town, do you want a restaurant that is completely empty, or one with other people there? Usually you want somewhere that looks like other people there, and the reason for this is the principle of perceived value. The same works in a professional setting. If you always appear to have nothing going on, people may not value your time or think you are accomplishing a lot. If people view you as someone who values their time and gets a lot done, this only increases your social capital.

I want to be clear, I'm not saying ignore people and be jerk. The goal here is to be intentional and clear on your priorities. When you do this, you can work on interesting projects, sell more or get your work done quicker. So rather than be ready to do anything someone asks of you at the drop of a hat without question, have a game plan for success at work. When you move from reactive to proactive, you will feel more in control of your day, get more done, and improve your personal life.

One quick tip to take action:

A simple but powerful technique is when someone asks you for something is to ask when they need it by and what the priority is. When I was more junior in my career, I would freak out and drop everything for something that wasn't urgent because the person had a senior title. As someone in a director role, I had a lot of contact with my CEO, and every time he asked me for something, I would ask when he wanted it by. If I had just assumed it was a fire every time, not only do I stress myself out, I also might drop the ball on something more important. This simple change helped build a mutual respect and showed that I was in charge of my day while also meeting people's expectations.

So you have two options: keep doing the same old just because that's what everyone else does, or take control of your destiny and improve your life at the same time.