You are walking down the street one day and you see a friend you haven’t seen in ages. “It’s great to see you!” says your friend, “how are you?” What is your response? Is your default “oh you know, busy”, “Flat out” or some derivation of that? I know that’s what it is because I was in the habit of doing it too. Being too busy seems to have become a bit of a badge of honour. As if, not being flat out all the time makes you lazy or that your life just isn’t what it should be. How can we break the busy cycle?
Why are we so busy?
How is it in this age of machines that will do things like wash dishes and our clothes, machines that were designed to simplify our lives, we are busier than ever?
We are constantly putting so much pressure on ourselves to be and do and have all these things. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a huge factor in pressuring people into cramming more into their lives than they have time for.
With so much research telling us how destructive stress and constantly being busy is in our lives, let’s look at how we can take that edge off. How can we remove busy from our default life status and put it back into the “only when necessary”
Let’s look at a few way to break out of that cycle.
1. Keep a time journal for a few days
It seems ridiculous and yet one more thing to add to your To Do list but it helps to see patterns emerge and show you where you are wasting time – neither being productive nor relaxed.
It’s important to do it over a number of days – both weekdays and weekends. That will give you a good picture as to where your time is going and give you some ideas on where you might make some changes.
Maybe you are spending a lot of hours cleaning instead of working on your business. That realisation may lead you to hire someone for a couple of hours to a week to free up that time for you to focus.
Or it might prompt you to remove some unnecessary activities that you were just doing out of habit anyway.
2. Identify what is essential
What is really essential in your life? Have you ever sat down to work that out? What is essential will change over the course of our lives so it is a question we need to ask on a regular basis. For example, if you are a new parent, then the baby is going to be the biggest essential of your day. However, if your kids are in school or you have become an empty nester, you can some other things that also are essential.
And here’s an important tip for all life stages: SELF CARE IS ALWAYS ESSENTIAL.
As you start your day (or some people do this the night before) ask yourself what tasks will make the biggest difference to my project, my day, my life, my career? In work and in your personal life, identify the things that will make the biggest difference to you. It’s ever changing so don’t expect it to stay the same.
Of course, some tasks are absolutely necessary and we aren’t talking about those. But even those from time to time might not be. For instance, if you decide not to feed the children there is likely to be an immediate impact. Let me share a personal story.
One afternoon my little brother trotted up to my little sister with a tragic expression. “She’s not giving us any dinner!” he proclaimed. They were horrified because this was unheard of! This seems like an absolutely essential task. That’s what parents do. They feed their children dinner! But let me give you context. We had been to a barbeque and had been eating all afternoon. He did not need more food, it’s just that it was dinnertime and he wasn’t exactly used to not getting food at dinnertime. However, my mother had made the choice that she would not add what in this instance was an unnecessary task to her day. The following day it became necessary again and my brother got his dinner.
Every day ask yourself: Is what I am doing essential for today?
3. Change your mindset
If the example at the beginning of this post resonated with you and your automatic reaction is always about how busy you are, then changing your mindset is going to be important for you. If you always think well that’s just how it is, I’m really busy then you will continue to feel rushed and stressed and never in control.
Busy does not equal productive. Activity does not equal productive. Yet we often convince ourselves it does.
You know those days, when you feel like you were flat out all day but can’t actually point to what you were doing? That means you lost control of the day. Take a few minutes to identify what you could have changed and move along. Tomorrow is a brand new day.