Are you Busy Getting Things Done or Just Busy?

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is what are you busy about”?
Henry David Thoreau

Is your life busy?

Several years back I thought being busy was a good thing. A positive response to the familiar question: How’s business? Being busy was a state I aspired to. If I’m busy that means my business is going well, it means I have achieved what I have set out to do. Then I realised that was all wrong. Being busy is not a state any of us should work towards. Being busy is not a measurement of self-worth, but a display of lack of control, lack of organisation or a combination of the two.

Always On?

With the advances in technology and communications supposed to make our lives easier and more assessable, constant connectivity makes our life busy even when it doesn’t have to be. The age of information overload makes us believe that there is always another article to be read, another YouTube video that we can’t miss or a million emails that still need to be written or responded to.

Phew I feel overwhelmed even writing about it, if that’s the emotional reaction while thinking about it, what kind of physical effects are there when we are living it?

What’s Priority?

With all this information constantly bombarding the first step is to identify what’s really important and eliminate all the noise and unnecessary work that makes our life busy. Having a vision for the future of what you want your life to look like and having yearly goals helping you to move towards this vision is what’s required to help you prioritise your daily tasks.

Why is this? Because it’s a great gauge to help you figure out if the work you busy yourself with daily is the right work or if it’s just filling time. Ask yourself what tasks are going to get me closer to my end goals? What one thing would you like to achieve this year that would make this year one of your best yet? Always be asking yourself the questions that will move you towards your ideal life?

Clear the Way

Another great way to clear the path for your priorities, is to declutter your physical surroundings. If you are disorganised and not in control of your daily chores , paperwork etc. It’s easy to be constantly busy trying to keep on top of things but not quite achieving anything.

Make a commitment to clear up all the clutter lying around. Get a place for everything. Buy new storage solutions if necessary. Spend some time sorting it all out. This will hugely help to clear the path for greater things. It will help you to focus more clearly on what you want and make you feel lighter and more in control.

Get Help

I recently attended a conference where Danuta Gray Chairperson of Telefonica Ireland spoke. As she was leaving I asked her; “Danuta, How do you fit it all in?” Her Answer “Really Good Help”. I was delighted with her answer because this is something I had identified earlier in the year. If I want to achieve all the things I have planned for this year and beyond, I was going to need help.

Whether it’s help with the housework and the children or help with proofing, editing and designing. I needed to make changes. I needed to hire someone to do my admin and my website and stop thinking just because I’m able to do it myself that doesn’t mean I should. Remember this great advice “Only do what only you can do”

Get Some Tools

When you have cleared up the physical mess and you are sure about what needs to get done. You may need some tools to make sure it all gets done. To avoid any future stress or unnecessary “busyness” transfer your tasks to a task manager and a calendar. Most of you know by now, I use Evernote to store my tasks and ideas and my calendar to schedule work that needs to get done. Whatever method you choose make sure you are getting your tasks out of your head and into some sort of system.

The Mind

In my experience all of these things have helped hugely, I am better able to focus and create a clear list of priorities. I have reduced the time I spend on unnecessary tasks and I am very focused on the things that I know will bring me more success and happiness. But another problem still remains for me and that is the busyness of my mind.

My husband asked me the question recently:“Do you even know how to relax?”

I paused for quite a while before answering because of course academically I could answer Yes I do know how to relax, I know what I should do in order to relax, but in reality the answer to the question must be no. My body does not know how to relax, even when I disconnect from technology and have time to myself I tend to fill it writing, planning, and dreaming. Nice tasks but tasks that keep my mind busy.

I do meditate regularly, but half an hour of meditation a day while it does help me to focus, to stay calm and to realign myself, it doesn’t counteract the explosion of synapses that fire every second of every minute in my overactive brain. I think it may be the curse of the self-employed, there is no official knock off time. We work around our children and families to find the time to get it all done but here is a Newsflash it’s never done. There is always more, more housework, more articles, more work, more ideas, more.

So although all of the productivity tools, like Evernote and calendars and personal organisation are a huge help in the big picture, they help you to organise the work so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting it. They help you to prioritise the work so that you no longer waste time working on the wrong things, but these tools will fall short if your mind is not within your control.

Calming the mind with meditation will help, but the conscious decision to switch off, to create times in the day where you refuse to work or think about work are required. To have a sacred time when work or technology is not allowed. To give yourself and your mind a break from the busyness and to savour the beauty and simplicity that exists beyond.

Do you know how to relax? Do you ever completely switch off from thinking about work or what needs to be done next?


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Comments (6)

I love the point about “Getting Help” I totally agree. This is my year for getting help, a great accountant, a virtual assistant and an external web team. Like you say, yes, of course I can do it all myself, but it doesn’t bring in revenue! I think it’s hard wired into entrepreneurs, work 18hrs a day do it all yourself, keep external non-necessary cost down. That frantic busyness- you almost get addicted. Great post and perfect timing for me to read!

Thanks for stopping by Carol, well done for outsourcing all this work, I think it’s the only way forward as an entrepreneur, the 18 hour days are not sustainable! Good Luck with the next phase when you can focus on your priorities and get more important stuff done.

This is key to me as I was overworked in my old job and kept getting sick. I finally was diagnosed with lupus and r.a. I am on chemo and having to use a wheelchair to get around. I used to dance and always helped others. Now I can’t move but my mind never stops. There is always a list. Yes, it’s in Evernote (where else? 😉 but my mind still runs 24/7. I only ‘relax’ when I’m drenched in fever and can’t think about anything else. Thank you for this. I will find a way to calm my mind, though it is hard. The curse of the self-employed, as you stated, is multiplied be the technology and information age. I will try and unplug my mind from the world wide web.
Many thanks for this and your website looks grand!

I love the Thoreau quote and often think about it when I feel frantic. I often find I can make myself “busy” without being productive when I am tired. Having realised this, I am trying to go to bed earlier or even take a nap. Though this takes time away from “doing” when I start back “doing” I am far more productive.

Hi Lee, good luck your quest to unplug from the chaos every now and again. I wish you a speedy recovery from your illness and maybe the illness will help you to find many ways of doing things more efficiently so that you will reap the benefits when you are in full health again. Stay strong

I’ve been doing that lately too Nicole, going to bed at ridiculously early hours so that I get up earlier when I’m most productive. If I stay up late it’s usually to watch mindless TV. Patience, Calm and slow are the words that need to enter into my being!

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