When you ask someone how they are, how often do you hear the response “busy!”? Maybe you even say it yourself. I am certainly guilty of that.
More and more commonly we are taking on more. A career, a family, a side hustle, some volunteer work… If you have ambition or drive there is always more you can do. Whether building your own business or wanting to do well at work, there’s is always the push to do more, be more, have more.
Being busy is social proof that we are successful, that we are in demand, that we are great hardworking employees worth every cent of our wage, that our life is full, and therefore meaningful.
We are so compelled to be busy, and so comfortable in that space, that when there is nothing to do we get anxious. Imagine waiting for 5 mins in a line without a phone that lets you check your email, messages, Facebook. We struggle to do it.
We say we want a break, that we need time off – but when we get it we can’t handle it. We get bored. Busyness protects us from emptiness. Busyness is evidence that we aren’t lazy. Busyness makes us feel worthy. Important. Safe.
But busyness is also distracting us. It is sabotaging our success. Busyness doesn’t have time to rest and reflect. Busyness leaves little space for creativity and productivity. It certainly doesn’t have time for self-care, for nourishing the soul, enjoying the sunshine, watching nature, taking a breath of pure fresh air. Often, busyness doesn’t even have time to play with your kids or call your mum.
Although the term “work-life balance” is bandied around all the time and all us “busy” people say we want more of it, it’s not happening. And the reason? We love being busy, we crave it, we create it for ourselves. Most of our busyness is self-imposed. We create it out of our desire to avoid all of the things we fear could arise from its absence.
But busyness is making us sick and tired. It’s destroying our relationships. According to several studies, it’s also having a negative impact on our productivity, our outputs, our results, and our success. In short, it’s giving us the opposite of what we are striving for when we create our busyness.
So is there a way out of this infinite busyness loop?
Have you noticed that you often have your best ideas in the shower? The shower is one of the few places we are unplugged. You can take your phone to the toilet, but as yet, the shower is free of external input. In that space, ideas get air time. Disconnecting from social media, emails, the phone is vitally important. You need to make space regularly when you’re disconnected. This could be for a small amount of time each day, or for a larger block of time every week or month. Whichever works best for you.
2. Get Bored
Research has shown that being bored has a significant impact on creativity, and in fact, many of our most creative people make time to become deliberately bored so that new ideas can come. Other studies looking at the amount of time that we are actually productive have found that when we are busy we are actually less productive. The less concerned we are about being productive, the more productive we are.
3. Escape with hobbies, sports, and diverse friends
Taking deliberate time off for things that have nothing to do with work, hobbies, sports, etc. has been shown to have a positive impact. Entrepreneurs with hobbies and activities that they regularly participate in away from their business were found to be generally more successful than their workaholic peers. Socializing with people outside of your field, where conversations are not work-related, has a similar impact.
4. Purposeful time blocking
It’s time to reframe our ideas of the opposite of busy. What if the opposite of busy isn’t lazy, or empty, but purposeful and focus. Have you noticed that we fill our time? If you have a day to do a task it will take you a day. If you have half an hour, it will take you half an hour. I have two sand timers on my desk for exactly this reason, 15 mins, and 30 mins – it’s amazing what you can get done in a short time when you focus. Focused time has been shown to be up to 500% more productive than busy time.
Busyness often means working on several things at once. Stop that.
Block out short periods of time to do just one thing. Break down your tasks. Make them manageable. Cut the distractions.
While you’re creating your new schedule don’t forget to add in time for play, time to unplug, time for your hobbies, self-care, family…
Transform your busyness into purposefulness and have more time for the things you love. Including you!