Busy Isn’t Better

Busy Isn’t Better

Being too busy and overwhelmed is causing us stress. We feel like we have to be superwoman and superhero’s every day. But this over busy schedule is really causing us unneeded stress which in turn shortens our lives and can cause a myriad of health issues.

We wear busyness like a badge of honor: “How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m so busy.” But why is “busy” a label you would want? Busy just means occupied. Doing stuff. Some of it purposeful. Some of it not. Some of it necessary. Some of it simply out of habit. 

If you find yourself regularly telling people how busy you are, I’d suggest you set a new goal: Being able to say instead, “I’m productive.” When you’re busy, you’re less likely to plan your day or your week. Without a clear picture of what’s most important, you take on new tasks without considering whether you even have time to complete them. You are also less likely to delegate. Why? Because delegation takes time to think: “Do I really have to do this myself? Who could do it instead? When can I ask them? How long will it take to explain? Oh, never mind, I’ll do it myself.” It doesn’t save you time in the long run, but when you’re already stressed and hurried, doing it yourself is an easy answer.

I invite you to consider that hurrying up is actually slowing you down. If you took just a moment to slow down, you could actually get more of the right things done in less time and be more productive. 

My favorite tool for being more productive is simple. Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish this week (or if you prefer, just make a list for just today). Then put each item into one of four categories: Do it. Delay it. Delegate it. Delete it. The stuff you choose to do is important. It is a priority. The stuff you delay is not urgent and is actually causing you stress because you don’t have time to do it right now, and frankly, it doesn’t yet need to be done. Put it on your schedule for a later date. The stuff you delegate are the things that do not require your personal attention. Someone else can handle it just fine. And the stuff you delete? Well, it serves no important purpose at this time. Give yourself permission to take it off of your to-do list.

The Paradox of Busyness

 It is strange paradox that occurs when you start to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more likely you are to do stuff that keeps you busy, but not productive.  Buried under a sea of to-do’s, it can be hard to pinpoint the most important priority.  So, it becomes tempting to just grab the low-lying fruit – the stuff that is calling for your attention, but not necessarily worthy of it.  So, you mindlessly scroll your social media news feeds or answer non-urgent emails. Why? Because it temporarily tricks to your brain’s reward centers into feeling productive.  Commenting on a post or replying to an email question is doing something, even if it isn’t the priority thing that needs your focus. But when you finish the faux productivity, you’re left feeling guilty and more overloaded.  How do you stop the madness?

  1. Hit the pause button. 

Take a breath. For a specific period of time – 15 minutes, an hour, however long it takes – unplug from the connections that distract you. Put your phone in airplane mode. Turn off the email chime. Disconnect the computer from the internet.

  1. Write down what’s overwhelming you.

Once you stop the flow of distractions, get your frustrations out on paper. What exactly has you feeling overwhelmed? Is it that you don’t know what to do next? Is it that there is too much on your list and not enough time? Is it that you need help, but haven’t asked for it? Pinpoint the source of your overwhelm.

  1. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t.

It can be easy to write down frustrations and then basically meditate on them.  In other words, you focus on the problem without redirecting your energy towards a solution. Put your list of frustrations to the side and make a new list. This list is a “mini-vision” of sorts. It is what you want to feel and have instead of the frustrations. For example, “I want to wake up in the morning knowing exactly what I want to accomplish for the day.”

  1. Identify the next step.

Once you are clear about what you want, take a step towards it.  Start working on the project – even if just for ten minute. Text that friend who knows the answer to getting guidance on the question you’ve been pondering.  Do something, anything, to move in the direction of what you want.

Often, what we need to jumpstart our productivity is to stop, reset and move forward.

My challenge to you this week:

Hit the pause button and redirect your energy to what matters. Hurrying up is slowing you down. Take the time to evaluate your to-do list and put everything into one of four categories: Do it. Delay it. Delegate it. Or delete it.

Journaling assignment:

What is your biggest distraction that enables you to procrastinate on the important stuff? What will you do this week to eliminate it and get refocused?



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