What To Do When You Feel Too Busy
Busyness doesn't lead to happiness, or even to productivity. Here's how to remove busy from your vocabulary
How many times have you been in a conversation like this.
"Hey! How's it going?"
"Good! Just busy."
This refrain is the default for so many people in our personal and professional circles. And people never seem busier than they are during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
Every time I hear someone share what a busy time of year this is, I wince a bit. Busyness should not be viewed as a preferred state of being or a status symbol. Being busy certainly doesn’t make us happier, and it doesn’t even make us more productive.
Years ago, in one of our quarterly offsite meetings, a leadership team member told our facilitator, "I just don't have enough time." The facilitator looked at her, then at all of us, and said, "As a leader, 'not enough time' is an excuse you all must take out of your vocabulary. If you are waiting for all this free time to come, it's never going to happen. It's about what you prioritize and how you use your time. Effective leaders know how to prioritize what's most important."
His words have stuck with me. Since that day, I’ve fought off the urge to describe myself as busy and have pushed the people I lead to avoid that as well.
If you’re feeling pressed for time in the day, that probably means you’re spending too much time on things that don’t matter. The solution is to build your calendar around your top priorities and remove unnecessary things from your schedule.
How do you do this? Try these techniques.
Use The Urgent/Important principle
Steven Covey's Eisenhower Urgent/Important Principle encourages us to place to-dos on two-by-two matrix, with one axis representing urgency and the other representing importance. This creates four boxes you can place your daily tasks into and tackle accordingly:
Important | Urgent: Do immediately.
Important | Non-Urgent: Schedule time to do these once Important and Urgent tasks are done.
Unimportant | Urgent: Delegate these to someone else if possible.
Unimportant | Non-Urgent: Consider removing from your to-do list entirely.
You’d be surprised how much of the average day is consumed by meaningless busywork. If you’re rigorous about removing unimportant and non-urgent tasks from your schedule, you’ll free up time for the things that matter.
Use Time Blocking