In the hustle and bustle of everyday life it’s so easy to get caught up in the minutiae – in the seemingly endless tasks, errands, emails to check/respond to, meetings to attend and other items on your to-do list.
Worse still, there seems to be some kind of perverse trend these day whereby being busy is something to be proud of, a form of “badge of honor.” That somehow the busier you are correlates to how important you are.
If I am busier than you it must mean I have a lot more going on than you do. If you’re not as busy as me it probably means you have no life and you’re just not that important and hence busyness has become somewhat of a status symbol.
This is insane.
Play no part in these games.
Don’t confuse busyness with success or getting results
Busyness is not the same as getting results or progress – even though it is easy to mistake the two.
In fact the opposite is usually true, busyness is often the opposite of progress, the staller of progress, if you will.
Many times it’s used as an excuse whether you know it or not.
“I’m too busy” becomes such a tempting and seemingly valid excuse for not actually getting things done. This is especially true when the thing to be done is something difficult, daunting or challenging. You know it’s good for you and you need to do it but conveniently you keep delaying because you’re “too busy.”
The tricky part about this is it always sounds convincing and it’s easy to fool yourself into believing it.
Be careful of this trap.
Remember being busy doesn’t mean you are going anywhere. To use a physics (imperfect) analogy, let’s say your goal is to drive from one town to the next directly without stopping. Busyness is like you’ve travelled all this distance but at the end of the day you achieved zero displacement.
You’re back at square one, back where you started. Sure it seemed like you did a lot of work and you covered a lot of ground, and you even feel exhausted by the end of the day but the fact remains you’re no closer to your destination than you were when you first started.
The remedy – take a step back and check yourself constantly
I learnt this neat technique from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek which I’ve been implementing in my own personal routine. At least three times per day at scheduled times, I ask myself the following question:
Am I being productive or just active?
In other words am I being busy for the sake of being busy, or am I being busy with intent and purpose? This has made a huge difference for me.
Another way to frame the question is:
Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
If you consistently keep asking yourself these questions and honestly answer them, you will find that you will significantly increase your productivity whilst keeping tight focus.
To conclude, in Tim’s words:
Focus on demonstrating results instead of showing dedication. Dedication is often just meaningless work in disguise. Be ruthless and cut the fat.
Don’t confuse busyness with getting results. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking busyness is a “badge of honor” or a status symbol. Often busyness is just an excuse to not do what’s necessary. It’s important to step back every so often and ask yourself what exactly it is you are doing and how does it help you achieve your overarching goals.
What have you been doing to keep yourself busy that’s actually stalling you from advancing towards your goals? I’d love to hear your personal experiences!