Have you noticed that, whenever you ask someone how they’re doing lately, the answer is often “I’m so busy”? Everyone is frantically running around working on a task list that never gets completed, all the while feeling a little smug when they tell people how awfully busy they are. I know this because I’m one of those people. I hate to admit it, but it feels good to tell people I’m busy. It makes me feel like I have a purpose and that I’m working towards something.
It’s also rubbish. ‘Busy’ means nothing. Being busy in and of itself doesn’t accomplish anything. The ultimate goal here is to plan your time instead of chaos dictating your life. I've noticed that truly important people, who should by rights be the busiest of us all, intentionally make time for the things and people they deem valuable. Busyness is often a sign of the following:
A lack of boundaries.
The inability to say no will have your diary overflowing with events and to-do’s that you don’t have the heart to say no to, but that you have no business committing to. You’ll agree to attend, or you’ll take on a task, and you’ll end up spending extensive mental energy before the time hating yourself for accepting the invitation. I’m working on this in my own life. I’ve said no to quite a few invitations and demands that people have tried to place on me recently, and have felt freer as a result. I realise that this is not easy, but it is a vitally important skill to learn if you want to own your time.
A lack of focus.
Someone gave me wise advice recently. I was getting distracted by many shiny, new opportunities that all looked promising. As a result, I felt completely overwhelmed, and it was very difficult to pinpoint what to focus on. Successful people choose what to focus on, they don’t allow themselves to be led astray by distractions. He said that, as a business owner, it’s important to focus first on those interactions or opportunities that will result in actual money in the bank. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to expand your focus to other opportunities you’d like to explore. I found this advice invaluable. It helped me to identify two avenues I’d like to focus on for the moment, and now I will be pouring all of my energy into that. Everything else will come when the time is ready.
Failure to delegate because of lack of planning, lack of trust, or perfectionism.
Most of us fear that everything will fall to pieces if we delegate tasks to someone else because we don’t trust that they will execute the task to our satisfaction. We hold on so tightly, that the thought of letting go gives us heart palpitations. Read my recent blog post on perfectionism here. When we’re finally ready to break, we’re not in the right head space to train someone to take on tasks that we need to delegate. The ideal way of going about this is to select simple, but time-consuming tasks that can easily be done by someone else. It doesn’t mean you need to hire a permanent employee, there are many options available. I recently hired a virtual assistant to format my Google Analytics properly. It was done quickly and effectively, and I didn’t have to spend any time trying to figure out how to do it myself. Ok, that’s a lie. I did spend time trying to figure it out because I’m stubborn. But I finally did hire someone, and it was definitely the right solution. I’m keen to explore this further when the need arises.
Misjudging how long it takes to complete a task.
You’d think the longer you’re in an industry, the easier it would become to time your tasks correctly. I’ve been doing photography for many years, and at times I still miscalculate how long it will take me to edit the photos. When that happens, I feel the consequences of that miscalculation. The work needs to get done, so I’ll often work overtime to make sure it gets to the client on time. Making sure that I deliver on time can leave me frazzled and feeling worn out. Yet again, I realise that this is an area where I can hire someone to do the editing instead of doing it myself, and that’s something I’ll have to look at doing soon.
Another task that takes a whole lot longer than I’d originally anticipated, is doing storytelling proposals. It’s not quite doing a quote that you can draft and send to the client. This takes careful planning and creative thinking. There are so many variables when quoting on a large project. Add to that the creative planning, and I can easily lose a full day or two to this process. In the meantime, there’s still a to-do list that needs to get done. Doing this correctly is of utmost importance though, so delegating more routine tasks to someone else would free up my time to spend on these, more important tasks. This is where choosing what to focus on is so beneficial.
Running around like a headless chicken is the standard way a procrastinator operates. The adrenaline of an impending deadline is the only way that you can get any work done. You’d best believe it’s an unhealthy way to live, but it’s a difficult pattern to break. When you’re rushing to get something done on time because you left it too late, everything else falls by the wayside. There’s no time for eating healthily or exercising or spending time with loved ones. The task at hand is the only item on your radar, and nothing will happen until that is completed. It’s hugely problematic when that becomes a way of life. In this article by Time, psychologists explain why you procrastinate, and how to stop.
Not getting enough rest.
If it seems counter-intuitive to mention rest, hear me out. Your mind and body cannot operate on full capacity when you’re overworked and overwhelmed. In this state, executing simple tasks drains your energy and leaves you feeling lethargic. It’s akin to brain-fog, you’re not as sharp as you should be. You’re able to get so much more done when you’re well-rested and alert. I know how difficult it is to take a break when you feel like your to-do list is getting the better of you, but schedule rest periods for your own sake, and for the sake of your loved ones. You will be glad you did and when you’re back at work, you’ll be way more productive because you took time off.
Claiming busyness is something I’m totally guilty of, but also something I’m trying to step away from. My aim is to stop living re-actively. You’re always on the back foot when you’re dodging bullets. Perhaps, with a bit of careful planning, we can take control of something that has taken control of us. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I want to feel good saying I’m productive, not just busy. Are you with me?
Until next time,
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