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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.

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

        How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

        If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

        Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

        But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

        Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

        If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

        1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

        For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

        Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

        If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

        But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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        So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

        Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

        In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

        2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

        Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

        Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

        Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

        Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

        For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

        Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

        Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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        For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

        Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

        Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

        Bonus:

        If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

        3. Take meaningful time for yourself

        We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

        Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

        If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

        Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

        This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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        No time for me-time? Try this:

        If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

        This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

        Bonus:

        Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

        4. Get productive and feel accomplished

        Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

        When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

        While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

        Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

        No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

        So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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        Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

        This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

        Try this:

        Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

        The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

        Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

        The bottom line

        There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

        The only question is — which tip will you try first?

        Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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