Andreas Glinz









By Andreas Glinz

Beware of keeping busy – What the Oxford MBA taught me about being conscious and focused

In my MBA, I learned a lot of the skills I had imagined I would. I learned to be a better leader by being a better listener, a better strategist by being able to connect the dots, and a better manager by understanding how different business functions interact to create value. However, some of my most profound learning took place in an area that I thought I was already pretty good at: Managing myself. Specifically, I learned to make more conscious decisions, to focus, and to keep energized (see my previous post). In this post, I would like to explore being more conscious, and being more focused.

In an MBA as in the corporate world, it is easy to stay busy. Staying on top of our emails, hopping from meeting to meeting, and staying active on social media can easily fill an entire day. Without stopping to think how our activities link together, and how they add value to our day, this can quickly devolve into a cycle of busy, yet ineffective work.

Consider how often we kill time when we have a few minutes to spare before an appointment. Through this, we avoid to having to engage in a conscious thinking process. Feeling busy feels good. Yet, by itself this is not necessarily effective (see Harvard Business Review: “Beware of the busy manager”). In my MBA, I learned to be more conscious of how I use my time. So, when I have five minutes before an appointment, I take this time to mentally check-in. In doing so, I consider how I feel inside, what exactly it is I am about to do, how it adds value to my day, and how it connects to the other aspects of my life. After this, I feel more prepared for the task at hand. When my appointment starts, my mind is “in the room” from the get-go. This helped me become more focused in my activities, and less prone to distractions, enabling me to be more effective in my work.

Further, I adopted three particular habits that help me focus on the task at hand:

  • Structure my schedule so I have time between appointments: By allowing 15 minutes between appointments, I have time for bio-breaks, to check-in mentally, and to start my next appointment on time; even if my last appointment ran over time.
  • Beware of keeping busy: By taking a mindful break when I feel in the grind, I avoid getting stuck in activities that don’t add value. I stop, get up, walk away, and breathe. Then, I consider what I am doing, and if it’s truly the best thing I could do at that time.
  • Organize my workspace to avoid distractions: By removing items not related to my work from my physical proximity, I am less prone to distractions. This means putting away everything not related to the task at hand: e.g. putting away my mobile, turning off WiFi if I don’t need it, and de-cluttering my workspace.

Combined, these strategies have allowed me to become more mindful, conscious, and effective. Through this, I get things done faster, and feel better doing so.

I’d love to hear what strategies you employ to stay focused. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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