“Stop being so bloody busy” The best advice I’ve received

When one of the most impressive advertising leaders in the world told me to “Stop Being So Bloody Busy”, his words had a profound impact, and changed the way I operate.

Miles Young, now the global CEO of Ogilvy, opened his speech to the regional PR leadership meeting in Cambodia with: “Now- here’s my message: please, stop being so bloody busy.” When he explained what he meant, it was clear his advice was invaluable.

It’s advice that has made me learn to slow down periodically… to stop and think…and has helped me become a better Trusted Advisor, and indeed friend. Here’s how Miles explained himself.

“Each of you has an enormous amount of value to bring to your clients. You are expert and have much to offer. But you allow yourselves to get so busy on ‘stuff’ that you lose touch with the value you can bring. Slow down a bit. Find time to think calmly. Find ‘no agenda’ time to talk with clients; to really listen to their issues, fears and aspirations. Find time to use your knowledge to provide thoughtful counsel and solutions. Slow down; think more; leverage what you know.”

There are two ways I have since learnt to ‘slow down’ so as to deliver more value. Both are invaluable and have fundamentally changed who I am and what I do.

1. I visit my Third Place once a week.

Starbucks built its business on the concept of a Third Place. We have home. We have work. But where is that Third Place we can escape to, where we feel ‘at home’, and where we can spend quality time ‘thinking’?

For me, it’s a café in Crows Nest in Sydney. I go there once a week on the way to work. They’re just bringing in the milk when I arrive. I read the papers, thoroughly (online and off). Then I start thinking about my life, and my work. What am I spending my time on? Is it the right priority? What are my Big Rocks for the month ahead? What should I spend more time on? What are the major issues? How best to solve them? I scribble, draw, make lists, map it all out on a big piece of A3 paper. Two hours later, I have clarity- on my priorities, and on my direction.

I always leave my Third Place with a spring in my step.

2.  I meet clients and other important contacts for breakfast.

I try to have at least two breakfasts a week with clients and key contacts. It is an excellent time of day to have calm, thoughtful and inspiring conversations. And it rarely takes more than an hour of our time.

There is never a firm agenda. Just “Let’s catch up for breakfast.”

I know these contacts (friends is a better description) enjoy them too. If I don’t set one up for a while, they contact me. I’m getting tearful now just thinking about some of the great, deep, genuine, meaningful, profound conversations I have been privileged to have shared with wonderful people over breakfast.

Great ideas have come out of these sessions. Big solutions to client problems. Most often, it’s an opportunity to share real feelings and fears, to be an outstanding listener: and sometimes, to offer counsel. Try it. Please. It’s a habit I am deeply grateful for.

So- stop being so bloody busy. We all need ammunition in our bag of tricks to keep ourselves at our best for clients and others we care about. I’ve outlined two that work for me. How do you slow down to think and connect?

> View a video of Chris retelling this post

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31 Responses to “Stop being so bloody busy” The best advice I’ve received

  1. penny davy July 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    I had a breakfast this morning and have tried to adopt the third space years ago when you first told me about. A good reminder we need to do this more often.

    • Chris Savage July 27, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      Thanks Penny. Keep at it!

  2. Naomi Beames July 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I almost didn’t read this because I thought I was too busy!! Great advice and something I need to remember. I plan to have one of those breakfasts with you at some stage soon. Naomi

    • Chris Savage July 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      Thanks Naomi! Honoured you’re reading these posts and available for breakfast of course! Chris

  3. Stuart Harvey July 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Chris.

    I have found that even if you are not in a C Level position or running your own company its always worth taking a step back or some time out to clear your mind and re-evaluate your priorities.

    Nice post, always enjoyable.

  4. Dayle O'Brien July 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I am enjoying these quick posts: simple messages; valuable messages; a real sense of your generosity in providing them. i especially like this one! thank you.

    • Chris Savage July 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Thanks Dayle. And thanks for following this. I am glad it is useful. Chris

  5. Carl Sherriff July 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Fabulous advice Chris, thanks. And what a fab name for a cafe chain ‘The Third Place’.

    • Chris Savage July 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

      Thanks Carl. So true! Am trade marking today! Chris

  6. Kate Meyer July 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Just reading this post helps put things in perspective and provides clarity. Im also seeing the benefits of the great relationships I’ve built over the years – good friends and trusted advisors. Having breaky with KCA gals next week!

    • Chris Savage July 28, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Kate -appreciate that.

  7. david wesson July 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    i’ve loved every single post you’ve written as of late

    if all CEO’s shared as much wisdom as you do the world would be a wonderful place. 🙂

    • Chris Savage July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks David. That is feedback I will never forget. Thank you. Chris

  8. John Gardner July 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    Thanks Chris. Further useful tips from someone who is rich with them.
    I run to slow down and get the clarity I need… it is a slow run sure, so it really is slowing down for some!!… but running unscrambles the mind and provides clarity. That’s my third place.

    • Chris Savage July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      Keep running Gardy.

  9. Justin Di Lollo July 28, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    At MBA school one sagacious lecturer spoke of “management by looking out the window” and meant the same thing as Chris here.

    I still get scoffed at sometimes when I mention this to people – but now I can just refer them to Wrestling Possums to get the full picture!

    This reminds me of the fantastic bumper sticker: “Don’t just do something. Sit there!”.

    The “light bulb” moment for me in this post is that if you’re so busy, you actually have to program-in your thinking time – just as Chris does.

  10. Tony Spencer-Smith July 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Amazing, a busy executive with a soul. Chris, you have truly hit the mark with this one.

    As a journalist, I used to indulge in the occasional leisurely lunch with key contacts. It was amazing what I learnt on those occasions, precisely because there was no agenda and we could let our minds run free.

    People get so involved in the day-to-day rush that they forget the big wide world. When I write novels, I’m most creative if I can sit under a tree and listen to the birds as I write.

    As you say, it is all a case of rising above the routine, of giving ourselves time to see the horizon and get our bearings.

    • Chris Savage July 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

      Thanks Tony. Great insights. Chris

  11. Obair July 28, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this valuable advice.

    • Chris Savage July 28, 2011 at 8:46 pm #


  12. Suzie Batten July 29, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Chris it’s been a long time between drinks (and breakfasts!) but I have been quietly enjoying your wrestling possums, finding them stimulating and inspiring. Thank you and well done. Suzie

    • Chris Savage July 29, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks Suzie- I am so glad you are enjoying them. Chris

  13. Kamal July 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Love the post
    Chris I believe that most people are too busy living mediocre lives

  14. Steve Thomas August 1, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Chris, you have a fantastic blog. Really enjoy reading your posts from here in Shanghai. Many thanks for all the great content.

    • Chris Savage August 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks Steve- very much appreciate the feedback. Chris

  15. Hannah Savage August 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    I love this post. Great advice that everyone can (and should) take!

  16. Adrianne Nixon December 21, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Was not aware of your blog back when this was posted originally so very glad that you shared it again for Christmas. As a freelancer I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many interesting people from various companies and have made it a priority to stay in touch with them all. I never say no to a coffee and am usually the instigator in making time to catch up. Even (and especially) for no particular reason. I agree that this is when you can have the greatest and most enlightening conversations – when people are relaxed and not worried about the “why” …
    Thanks Chris – nice to know that people in your position still take time to stop, stay in touch with the world and with the people that make life interesting. Let’s have a coffee in 2012!

    • Chris Savage December 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks Adrianne- appreciate the feedback. And available for coffee as of 1 February!


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