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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 January 13, 2020

        Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

        Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

        Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

        Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

        Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

        Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

        How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

        The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

        You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

        Physical Signs

        Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

        It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

        In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

        Mental Signs

        One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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        I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

        Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

        • The tension in your neck
        • Difficulties with sleeping
        • Unable to concentrate
        • High anxiety
        • Depression

        If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

        Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

        Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

        The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

        Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

        Desire for an Increase of Salary

        The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

        At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

        Overnight Decision

        Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

        Rejected for a Promotion

        I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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        Bored at Work

        Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

        A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

        • How long have you worked in your career?
        • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
        • Do you receive recognition?
        • Can you consider working in a new department?

        If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

        How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

        I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

        One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

        It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

        A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

        You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

        • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
        • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
        • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

        How to Make a Career Change Successfully

        The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

        1. Write a Career Plan

        A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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        You can learn how to set your career plan here.

        2. Weigh Your Options

        If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

        You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

        3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

        It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

        A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

        • Economic factors
        • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
        • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
        • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
        • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

          A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

          4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

          A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

          • What is required to be successful in the role?
          • What certification or educational development is needed?
          • What are the challenges of the role?
          • Is there potential for career advancement?

          A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

          Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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          5. Research Salary

          Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

          It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

          6. Be Realistic

          If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

          For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

          Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

          7. Volunteer First

          A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

          Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

          Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

          8. Prepare Your Career Tools

          I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

          • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
          • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
          • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
          • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

          Bottom Line

          It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

          Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

          More About Career Change

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

          [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
          [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
          [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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