Business Columns & Blogs

Nancy Napier: Do you have hurry sickness?

Do you have “hurry sickness?” Take the test below and see.

1. When you put something in the microwave for 30 seconds, do you do other tasks during the wait, like loading the dishwasher, checking the news, or folding laundry?

2. Have you found the fastest route to work? Through airports? Through the grocery store?

3. Do you eat lunch at your desk, check emails in the process and perhaps drop crumbs onto your key board as well?

We try to use our time in ways we think are more efficient, but in fact may not be. Often, by filling even a few seconds with “work,” we make ourselves vulnerable to missing out on opportunities for reflection and ultimately for becoming more effective and productive. Professor Richard Jolly, from the London Business School calls this “hurry sickness.”

Over a decade, Professor Jolly studied how several thousand executives spend their days and found that 95% of them rush around. They get work done but at the expense of deep reflection of what and how and why they are working so much and so quickly. And in the end, this hurry sickness may not serve their careers well.

In a February 4, 2015 Fortune magazine article by Anne Fisher (, Jolly makes the disturbing point that fast moving executives may be less effective if their hurrying leads them to neglect working on their highest priorities. In a way, the executives may be fooling themselves. To illustrate this, Jolly asked executives in a coaching session to list the three top goals they had. Then, he asked each to go back through his or her calendar for the previous six months to see how the managers actually had spent their time. One of them reported that he had spent only 1% of his time on the top goals, when in fact he should have been spending about 50%.

This idea is nothing new for most of us, yet it’s good to be reminded of the value of slowing down as a way to move forward. Several leaders talk about the notion of “slow down to speed up.” It seems like a paradox but in the end may be more efficient and effective. The basic idea is to become very clear about what problem to focus on, ways we can approach it, and anticipate obstacles rather than just reacting. By considering and mastering the way to move forward in a more deliberate, often slower way, we can then speed up the learning and acting later so the whole process is better.

Jolly suggests setting appointments with ourselves, booking one or two hours a week just for reflection and thinking. It will help you avoid hurry sickness and just may make you better at your job.