Look around. The busy and stressed far outnumber the productive and relaxed. I’d say a good 8 out of 10 of my friends are stressed out about work, significant others, family, and school.
I can really see it playing a huge part in their mood, fitness, diet, relationships, and general quality of life.
Are you creating the busy in your life?
One of the biggest obstacles I hear to achieving optimal health and wellbeing is TIME. It’s seems like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done.
It feels like time is our biggest nemesis. Our Darth Vader if you will. We don’t have enough time to workout, not enough time to prepare meals, not enough time to take on a new activity or challenge, not enough time to live.
We use time in two ways that are very different from one another.
The Scapegoat: Poor guy takes the heat and all the blame about why we are not getting shit done (from now on referred to as GSD, to keep it PG for the younger crowd).
As an Ego Boost: Funny thing is we also like to use him (and yes, time is masculine because time has an ego the size of Texas) as an ego boost. We admire the art of being busy. If you’re too busy to have fun, play, workout, eat right, or RELAX, you must be doing much more important things and working hard right? Thus, lack of time equals that we are super-duper important.
Poor guy is so confused. So this article is not for you, for me, or for anyone in particular. This article is for the sake of TIME. If you’re out there buddy, I hope this clears up some of the confusion about how we treat you and hopefully addresses some ways to utilize your resources more effectively.
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. – William Penn
CONDITIONED TO BE BUSY BEE’S
The good news is that it’s not all our fault we have shitty time management skills and associate being busy with being important. Dyana Valentine put it best in a recent interview with Unmistakable Creative.
… We have all these responsibilities, and we’re supposed to want these responsibilities, we have a script we expected to follow. Working through our lives to check of these boxes…
We’ve been conditioned at a young age to play by a certain set of rules. There is a certain path expected for all of us to take, certain responsibilities we all must have (sometimes by a certain age); it’s a cookie cutter mold for all of us to fit into.
We try to do everything ourselves, take on as many projects and tasks as possible, and fit nicely into that mold so that we sound more important than we actually are.
Our priorities are all jacked up. Repetitive tasks and errands also take on the role of monster time consumers and ego boosts. We’ll give priority to doing laundry, washing the dishes, making our beds, or other routine activities over our health and well-being. Instead of getting in a 20-minute bodyweight workout, we somehow decided that the laundry has to be done this instant and can not wait.
Preparing our meals for the next day is less valuable than sweeping the kitchen floor and dusting the lamp shades. Going wine tasting over the weekend is not as important as working on the garage, answering emails, or playing phone tag.
We miss out on some really sweet opportunities to experience some amazing things with family, friends, and significant others. We neglect our own health and wellness because saying :
“Sorry, I can’t . . . I’m super busy,” makes us seem totally awesome.
So here’s challenge #1
One day this week take a good look at some of the responsibilities in your life and assess what you can:
- Do: Complete a task, job, workout, anything that you’ve put off
- Delegate: What is one thing you can ask someone else to do? Even if it’s just a small task once.
- Dismiss: What is one thing you can completely stop doing?
WHY ARE WE SO BUSY?
The answer… because being busy is easier than being productive.
Being busy looks like getting shit done. Productive IS actually getting shit done.
Quantity over quality is the emphasis. Take on as much as possible, try to be everywhere for everyone, and every time you get one thing done, you add two more. Often it leads to abandoned projects, giving up on goals, and sacrificing your health and well-being for the sake of appearing more important than you are.
Having free time to play, enjoy life, and pursue personal goals has somehow become viewed as being lazy. I used to be that guy; running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to take on any little meaningless task I could to appear busy. I feel into that trap of validation, by which I mean I was staying busy to appear more important.
Being busy usually involves little-to-no structure. There are no clear goals, actions being taken, or virtues being met.
But look, let’s not kid ourselves. Most of us actually do have responsibilities like work, family, and significant others. So how can we juggle all of this, and still find time to workout, eat right, and pursue our passions?
Here’s challenge #2
Turn your phone, the computer, and the TV off for an entire weekend. Run no errands and do no household chores. Wake up and do one thing for yourself that you’ve put off.
Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose. – Thomas Edison
No, no, no… I’m not asking you to do some weird club drug.
David Allen has a pretty world-renowned book written all about the art of getting things done. He also has a pretty cool site dedicated to the practice as well. Although I’m not David Allen, I think I have some pretty cool insight into spending our time being more productive so we can pursue more of what we love and less of what we don’t
Productivity is a matter of engagement. If you enjoy what you are doing you’ll be more productive.
DO NOTHING! Pretty sure I just heard some of you gasp. Yeah, I’m serious. Do absolutely nothing. If you need help doing nothing, visit this site and check back with me . . . how many of you just failed that quiz? Show of hands, please. No shame here. Doing nothing takes practice. Like I said earlier, we have been conditioned to be busy, and to equate being busy with something that is good and important.
Start small, 1-2 hours a week. Take an hour one day a week and just sit and breath. Turn off the phone and any other distraction; don’t even talk. Just sit still and relax. Go outside and take in the sun while you’re at it.
Plan everyday. I’m all for spontaneity, but when it comes to GSD most of us need to plan out our day. The easiest way to do that is to take time out before your day is over and schedule out tomorrow for yourself. Make appointments, not only with others but yourselfl. Take out a pen and paper, or use some of the cool apps out there like re.Minder, remember the milk, or toodledo. I use re.minder that beeps me every hour and asks “What the fuck are you doing now!” It seems to work.
The key is to not overwhelm yourself with writing down every little thing. Writing down “do the laundry” is not necessary. Pick three things tops that need to get done the next day. These are the three things, that if you do not get don would make the day seem like a waste.
It’s also an excellent idea to estimate how long it is going to take you to complete the task. If getting in a workout is on your list, try to factor in the time frame you will need to complete it. Do you need to drive to the gym, shower after, etc.?
Tough things first. Piggy-backing off number two here, the first item on that to do list for the day should be the toughest task, or the one that you struggle with most. If you are always skipping a workout later in the day, this is a great time to create an appointment with yourself and get it done. When I was trying to read 52 book s in 52 weeks, I made sure I set aside at least 30 minutes every morning to read.
This will also build momentum for the rest of the day. If you can knock that toughest thing out first, I guarantee it will be like a weight off your shoulders. The rest of the day will be a breeze.
Honor thy appointments. If you make an appointment with yourself, or with anyone else for that matter, DON’T cancel it. Especially with yourself. As humans, we have this weird quality where we strive to not let anyone else down, but somehow it’s ok to let ourselves down. If you scheduled an appointment with yourself to workout, then keep it!
While you are doing this, try to limit commitments as much as possible. If you really don’t want to do something, then just say so. Take on the ones that play to your strengths, core virtues, and allow you to really contribute and give back. If someone asks you to help out with a garden, and you have no clue what you are doing, maybe pass on that commitment. Unless learning the art of gardening is something you really would like to understand.
Get rid of limbo. There is nothing worse than being in limbo. What is limbo you ask? I’m so glad you did.
Limbo: an unknown intermediate place or condition between two extremes; a prison or confinement. Also a really cool game where you walk under a stick.
Pretty much sounds like hell to me. Moral of the story, if something comes up, and you can do it right way or answer right away, then do it! That’s not to say do it mindlessly, but digest what it is you are reviewing, maybe check your schedule, and then take action.
This is a big one for email. If you open that inbox and there is a message in there ANSWER THEM! That’s what you went to the email for anyway, right? Instead of playing email tag, maybe ask them to give you a call if there needs to be any clarification. That way, you can resolve any issues immediately and move on as to avoid being in limbo.
Batch the mundane. All those small little tasks that we make so important, but really have no significance in our development as kick ass people, should be batched. This works for some and not for others, but I find it very useful. I like to dedicate a couple of hours one day a week to taking care of those little tasks like household chores, errands, etc. I like to call it my, “Damn, I really don’t want to do this crap, but I do understand it eventually needs to be done list.”
Laundry, yard work, grocery shopping, and the like, are all done here. It usually takes a couple of hours, but when it’s all said and done, I know I have the rest of the week to concentrate on dominating.
Respect the law of diminishing returns. The idea is that the continued application or repetition of a skill, task, or project is subject to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of achievement has been reached. Long story short, know yourself and how you operate.
If you start to feel the decline in productivity, I would suggest working 5-10 more minutes past that point to build-up a resistance to the stress. Allow yourself to get to the point where you feel a little anxiety and frustration being at it so long, but right when you feel that way, take a break! If you’re at work and you get to that point, simply step outside, get some sunlight and fresh air, and seriously . . . knock out a few push-ups, lunges, or jumping jacks. It will totally reset your jets!
Review. Take time at the end of your day to review what you completed. Was your most important/difficult task finished? If not, where did things go wrong and what can you do to fix it tomorrow?
Yup, challenge #3
For 1 to 2 days anytime someone asks you to do something, just say no. No explanations, just say no. You can add “I have an appointment with myself” if you’d like. It’s not being rude, it’s just showing yourself that it’s OK to say no sometimes.
SO LETS WRAP THIS UP
What can you put on your list for tomorrow? Write down the most important thing in your life now. Is it getting in a workout? Preparing meals? Spending time talking to a family member on the phone?
This whole “I’m too busy mess” really means that “It’s not that important to me.”
So find out what is. Ask yourself the question. What is important to me now? Then go on and commit, enjoy, and share with others.
Having time to enjoy yourself, others and your passions does not make you any less important or lazy. I’d say it makes you smart because you’re able to GSD.
How are you making yourself busy today?
Photo: Anna Dziubinska