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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 November 19, 2018

        How to Find a Suitable Professional Mentor

        How to Find a Suitable Professional Mentor

        I went through a personal experience that acted as a catalyst for an epiphany. When I got fired from a job, I learned something important about myself and where I was headed with my freelance career. I realized that the most important aspect of that one rather small job was the influence of the company owner. I realized that I wasn’t hurt that the company and I weren’t a perfect match; I was devastated by the stark fact that I needed a mentor and I had almost found one but lost her.

        Suddenly, I felt like J.D., the main character in “Scrubs,” chasing Dr. Cox and trying to rip insight and wisdom from someone I respect. The realization that a recognized thought-leader and experienced entrepreneur severed ties with me felt crushing. But, I picked myself back up and thought about five ways to acquire a mentor without having the awkwardness of outright asking.

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        1. Remember, a professional mentorship must be mutual.

        A professional mentor must agree to engage in a mutual relationship because, as the comedy T.V. series showed us, one simply cannot force someone to tutor us. We have to prove that we are worth the time investment through persistence and dedication to the craft.

        2. You have to have common interests with your mentor.

        Even if a professional mentor appears at your job or school, realize that unless you and this person have common interests, you won’t find the relationship successful. I’ve been in situations where someone I respected had vastly different ideas about what was important in life or what one should spend his or her free time doing. If these things don’t line up, you may find the relationship won’t be as fruitful, even when the mentor knows a great deal about one industry.

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        3. Thought-leaders will respect your passion.

        One of the ways you can prove yourself worthy to a professional mentor is through your passion and your dedication. No one wants to spend time grooming and teaching another who will not take advice or put the effort in to improve. When following thought-leaders on Twitter and trying to engage with higher-ups in a work setting, realize that your actions most often speak louder than your words.

        4. Before worrying if he respects you, ask if you respect him.

        On the other side of the coin, you should seriously reflect on those common interests and make sure you respect your professional mentor. Just because someone holds a title, degree or office does not mean that person is trustworthy or honest. Don’t be swayed by appearances and take the time to find a suitable professional mentor.

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        5. Failure is often the best way to learn

        I honestly have made more mistakes than I can count. I know I’ve learned a great deal from poorly organized businesses and my own poor choices. The most important quality I’ve developed is an ability to swallow my pride and learn from my mistakes. If life knocks me down nine times, I get back up 10 times. One of the songs Megadeth wrote, “Of Mice and Men,” resonates in my mind when I pull myself up by my bootstraps and try again for a goal I’ve set: “So live your life and live it well. There’s not much left of me to tell. I just got back up each time I fell.” Hopefully, this brief post can act as a professional mentor to you in your quest to find not only a brave leader but also a trusted adviser.

        Featured photo credit: morguefile via mrg.bz

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