How many times have you skipped a meeting or canceled your plans last-minute because you’re ‘too busy’ ? Unless you’re truly struggling to get by, for most people being ‘busy’ is mostly just an excuse. Busyness is a status symbol that makes us feel important and assures us that we matter in this world because we must do so many things. However, busyness doesn’t mean you are productive – rather, busyness is a sign of inefficiency and often detracts from your quality of life. Busyness is avoidable – here’s how.
1. Be intentional about your time.
If you’re so busy you can’t go grocery shopping, you shouldn’t have time to spend 2 hours on Facebook each day. When you say you don’t have time, what you actually mean is ‘I would rather browse Twitter than make my bed each morning.’ Follow the maxim ‘time is money’ and invest it wisely, instead of squandering away your free hours on meaningless pursuits. And find pockets of ‘hidden time’ that you can use. Want to read more? Listen to an audiobook as you drive to work.
Stop thinking of relaxing as a ticket to laziness and build free time into your day. Relaxation relieves stress, lets you enjoy the moment and improves your problem-solving skills. So take naps. Breathe. Meditate. If you’re always rushing, develop a morning routine to set a calmer tone for the rest of the day. Don’t be so busy you’re not enjoying the precious little time you have on this earth.
3. Figure out your ideal day.
In a perfect world, what would you do each day? What adds the most value to your life – spending time with your friends/family, exercising, working? Write out what your perfect day looks like, then work towards it. Eliminate, delegate or postpone non-essential activities, completing only your highest-priority tasks. Schedule everything, even personal time, so you can fit everything in. Don’t have a lot of control over your day? Explain to your boss how you could be more productive and work out a compromise. At the very least, reduce the meetings you attend since they’re a huge time-suck.
4. Let it go.
You should say no to things that drain your energy, like toxic relationships or activities you think you ‘should’ do that aren’t actually important. But you probably won’t get a lot of important things done either – and you must accept that. In today’s society, we pack our to-do lists to the brim, but we simply don’t have time for all of these ‘meaningful’ things. Pick those that matter most to you and stop feeling guilty about stopping your other commitments. People might be disappointed, but they will live. You only get one life. Do what you love with it.
5. Stay focused.
Another ‘business trap’ is not focusing on the task at hand. Multitasking ensures your activities only get done a little at at time, staying on your to-do list for weeks and distracting you. Batch similar busywork tasks together, and schedule bigger activities for long blocks at a time. Anywhere from between 45 minutes to 2 hours is good – any longer and you’ll get distracted. If you’re a chronic multitasker, schedule 45 minutes/day to focus on one task for a week and see how much you get done. You also should reduce distractions, so find out what they are and get rid of them. Just don’t overwhelm yourself by doing this all at once. Pick one distraction each week and remove it, whether it’s by asking your chatty co-worker to bother you less or clearing off the pile of papers on your desk.
6. Stop saying “I’m so busy.”
What would happen if you removed ‘busy’ from your vocabulary? When one man and his wife tried it, they noticed a remarkable change. Rid of the easy answer for ‘how are you,’ they became more descriptive and found that their friends were as well, which promoted honest and authentic conversation. They also “stopped justifying [their] poor behavior and choices,” realizing that they weren’t getting things done because they’d taken on too much or because they weren’t a priority. Take a cue from this couple and stop using the word ‘busy.’ You’ll stop competing with friends about who’s busier and remind yourself to be more efficient.
7. Enjoy your solitude.
Too many people stay busy because they need to feel important or because they suffer from relentless FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). But over scheduling leads to exhaustion, overwork and stress. Recognize that you are enough as you are, and don’t need to validate your existence by making appointments you can’t commit to. And stop going out if you don’t feel like it. Learn to enjoy your own company.
8. Redefine success.
When you die, what’s going to matter – the money in your bank account or the people you enjoyed your life with? Most people would pick the second option. But we don’t live our lives this way, sacrificing our happiness and time with loved ones for some extra dollars. We’re obsessed with productivity because we think it’s a path to wealth. But research shows that wealth is not a path to happiness, but the other way around –happiness leads to success. So let go of the idea that you must be busy to be happy, and enjoy yourself. Life is too short to be busy.