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Why Being “Too Busy” Is The Biggest Lie We’ve Been Told

Why Being “Too Busy” Is The Biggest Lie We’ve Been Told

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’m too busy”? “I’m too busy to meet this person…” “I’m too busy to take care of my health…” “I’m too busy to learn a language…” We take in a big sigh, and even lead ourselves to believe that being “too busy” is something worth celebrating. I’ve certainly been guilty of this many times over.

In a world of rapid change, infinite access, and countless distractions, our society has built a culture around celebrating “keeping busy”, for the sake of… well, keeping busy. But there’s a massive difference between activity and performance. We can be efficient in a lot of things in our lives, without ever being effective. 

Here’s why telling ourselves that we’re “too busy” can lead to a negative cycle.

We Reap What We Sow

Have you ever bought a new car, and suddenly you start to notice all the cars that are identical to the one you just bought? Or maybe you got a new dog, and you start paying attention to all the dogs that are walking across the sidewalk.

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It’s not that the manufacturers of your car suddenly decided to release more models in your city, nor did the population of dogs hit a spike. It means that your Reticular Activating System is at work. Without boring you with the scientific details (TL;DR right?), your RAS is the automatic mechanism inside your brain that tells you what to pay attention to, and what not to. Think of it as a filter for the brain.

As bland as the name may sound, it’s an incredibly important part of our brain since it’s the gatekeeper that determines how we think – consciously or subconsciously. One of the greatest examples of the RAS at work is when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954, which was claimed to be impossible at the time. A year after he broke the record, over a dozen people also beat the record, including high school students.

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, MAY 3-4 - FILE - In this May 6, 1954, file photo, British Athlete Roger Bannister breaks the tape to become the first man ever to break the four minute barrier in the mile at Iffly Field in Oxford, England. With the 60th anniversary approaching, Bannister, now 85, is reliving those four minutes that still endure as a seminal moment in sports history. He has a new autobiography out and is marking the anniversary with a series of events at Oxford, where he set the record on a cinder track all those years ago. (AP Photo/File)

    The reason why we bring up RAS is because there’s two ways to control our brain:

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    1. Consciously: By purposefully setting goals, affirmations, and visualizing our goals, we can create a filter that enables our brain to focus on anything that will get us closer to our goals.
    2. Sub-consciously: By telling ourselves “we don’t have time”, our brain is going to find every reason to justify why we don’t have time.

    Since our brain will eventually believe whatever message we feed it, telling ourselves that we’re “too busy” only becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Being Busy Is Not Being Productive

    I would often find myself busy scrambling to finish my to-do list for the week. It’s only when I take a step back to reflect that I realize there were only 3 things on that list that made an actual impact to my end goals.

    So let’s talk about the key differences between being busy vs. being productive (effective):

    • Busy people have many priorities, productive people have few big priorities.
    • Busy people focus on action, productive people focus on clarity before taking action.
    • Busy people multitask, productive people focus on one task at a time.
    • Busy people react to emails immediately, productive people carve out a portion of the day to answer all of their emails at once.
    • Busy people talk about how they’re “too busy”, productive people make time for what’s important.

    Did you say “yes” to more of the busy category or the productive category?

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    The truth is, all of us have the time to do anything we want: spend time with family, learn a language, go to the gym, cook a healthy meal, etc. We just can’t do everything we want.

    We should also consider the Pareto’s Law: In nearly anything we do in our lives, only ~20% of our inputs (i.e. activities, tasks, money, time) will deliver ~80% of our desired results.

    15diagram

      This means that if you’re

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      • Learning a new language: focus on one solution that will give you 80% of your desired result (i.e. reaching conversation fluency)
      • Building a business: focus on the few vital features that deliver 80% of satisfaction to your customers
      • Getting in shape: focus on the few exercises that can workout 80% of your body

      So how do we put this into action? A solution that has been working incredibly well for me is asking one simple question…

      What’s Your ONE Thing?

      In the bestselling book, The ONE Thing, Gary Keller describes it as “the ‘one thing’ you can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” You can apply this concept to your business life, personal life, physical health, finances, etc.

      Jason_Hardy_personalBuckets

        As simple as this exercise may sound, it’s one of the most difficult questions I ask myself. Essentially, you’re forcing yourself to say “no” to the good opportunities, so that you can make way for the opportunities that can change your life. Sometimes those lines are blurred, but by simply asking the right question: you can stop being “too busy”, and start being productive.

        The Takeaway

        Ask yourself: are you saying “yes” to too many things? If you are, it may be time to reprioritize your goals and activities. For the rest of the day (or week if you can), try approaching anything that comes at you by asking: is this my “ONE Thing?”

        If the answer is “no”, then move on. Remember, saying “no” to the mediocre will open up the opportunity to say “yes” to the extraordinary.

        More by this author

        Sean Kim

        Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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        Last Updated on October 13, 2020

        How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

        How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

        Have you been stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

        Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

        • Taking a job for the money
        • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
        • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
        • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
        • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

        There are many other reasons why you may be feeling this way, but let’s focus instead on learning what to do now in order to get unstuck and get promoted

        One of the best ways to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization. Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or do some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrate added value?

        Let’s dive right in to how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position.

        1. Be a Mentor

        When I supervised students, I used to warm them — tongue in cheek, of course — about getting really good at their job.

        “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else.”

        This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some truth in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

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        This can get you stuck.

        Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:

        “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role…You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong ‘personal brand’ equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call ‘a good problem to have’: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done ‘too’ good of a job!”[1]

        With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

        From Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

        Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

        Let’s say that the project you do so well is hiring and training new entry-level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, make hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

        Are there any team members who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

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        1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
        2. As a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower them to increase their job skills.
        3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job and creating team players.

        Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

        2. Work on Your Mindset

        Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is explained through this quote:

        “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you—not the job—who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”[2]

        In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings to help you learn how to get promoted. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

        Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

        Present your case and show your boss or supervisor that you want to be challenged, and you want to move up. You want more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.

        3. Improve Your Soft Skills

        When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills[3].

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        Use soft skills when learning how to get promoted.

          According to research, improving soft skills can boost productivity and retention 12 percent and deliver a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention[4]. Those are only some of the benefits for both you and your employer when you want to learn how to get promoted.

          You can hone these skills and increase your chances of promotion into a leadership role by taking courses or seminars.

          Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

          Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has a position similar to the one you want.

          Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of their meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what their secret is! Take copious notes, and then immerse yourself in the learning.

          The key here is not to copy your new mentor. Rather, you want to observe, learn, and then adapt according to your strengths.

          4. Develop Your Strategy

          Do you even know specifically why you want to learn how to get promoted? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one-year, five-year, or ten-year plan for your career path? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what”?

          Sit down and make an old-fashioned pro and con list.

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          Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

          Look at your lists and choose the most exciting pros and the most frustrating cons. Do those two pros make the cons worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes,” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want[5].

          The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

          Here are some questions to ask yourself:

          • Why do you do what you do?
          • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
          • What does a great day look like?
          • What does success look and feel like beyond the paycheck?
          • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

          Define success to get promoted

            These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your work friends over coffee.

            Final Thoughts

            After considering all of these points and doing your best to learn how to get promoted, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. Then, you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

            Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose.

            More Tips on How to Get Promoted

            Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

            Reference

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