It’s 2015, and you are laser focused. You built a vision board, cleaned your work space, and mapped out your short-term and long-term goals. You’ve got back to back meetings, a new idea for a side hustle, and all types of new ideas. You’re on fire.
Unfortunately, fires aren’t always sustainable. The best ones eventually fizzle out, and if they don’t get the right amount of oxygen and kindling, they become ashes. That shouldn’t happen to you though, and here are 21 ways to keep your busy life from affecting your goals.
1. When you’re busy, you aren’t present.
Life is made up of hundreds of thousands of moments. Some that move us, others that change us, and some that provoke us to action. Being busy takes us away from those moments.
Millennial expert Jullien Gordon has a remedy for this: know the difference between being a workaholic vs. a high performer. The former wants to look more important, but the latter seeks out important work. Knowing the difference can help you do more in each moment of your day.
2. When you’re busy, you opt out of opportunities.
Opportunities are everywhere. They come up in coffee shops, via social media outlets like Twitter, and through mutual connections. When you’re busy, you often miss opportunities because you only see them as distractions, not spaces for you to grow and advance.
3. When you’re busy, you confuse motion for progress.
We all want to do more with what we have. Unfortunately, we think being busy means we are making strides. The Pareto Principle presents another hypothesis which deserves some attention. It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your time. If you are able to figure out what that 20% looks like (and the actions you take to get there), you can create immeasurable leverage. That means you’ll spend more time doing the things that really drive you toward your goals, and not just “things” to fill space.
4. When you’re busy, you don’t prioritize effectively.
Priorities are how we separate the things that we need to do, versus ones that we should. They keep us in line and on track. But when we are too busy, everything seems like it needs to be done. It doesn’t. When you identify what matters versus what can wait, you become efficient with your time, allowing you to do the things you really want to do and with more regularity.
5. When you’re busy, you make excuses for actual problems.
When we have so much to do, sometimes we can’t focus on problems. That can be productive, but unhealthy. Issues in our lives can only be ignored until they seep into other places where they shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t wait until you’re on the verge of a breakdown to address something that’s hurting you. But when you’re too busy, sometimes that’s the only way to get your own attention. Don’t wait for it to get there.
6. When you’re busy, you’re more prone to multitask (which your brain hates).
How many tabs do you have open right now? I average between six and nine on a good day. That alone damages my brain by 40%. That productivity we so desperately crave is undermined when we do a lot of things at once. That workflow has to stop. It feels great, but it’s terrible for you.
Instead, try a new workflow. Single-tasking is exactly what it sounds like: doing one task, with no distractions. It may take some time to adopt this new type of workflow, but it will do wonders for you in the long term.
7. When you’re busy, you forget to invest in yourself.
You are the most important company you’ll ever work for. In order to keep growing and expanding, it’s imperative that you fight to continue your growth. The internet has become the new library. Ted Talks, Khan Academy, and thousands of other courses are there for you to take advantage of. It doesn’t have to be “traditional” learning either. Taking time to invest in a hobby or side project can help you be better at your job.
Before you say you don’t have time, here’s a better question:
Can you afford to stay the same and still grow?
8. When you’re busy, your vision gets blurry.
Ideally, you’re busy because you are working towards something. A new job, a promotion, financial freedom, or simply trying to change something. It’s hard to remember your “why” for doing what you do. But it’s arguably the most important motivator you’ll ever have.
That’s exactly what Lo, the founder of Can’t Stay Put, did. Can’t Stay Put is a lifestyle movement built to inspire people to break out of their comfort zones, see the world, and live the lives they only dreamed about. She did that by finding her vision and purpose on a trip to Maui, and hasn’t looked back since. She transformed her life by finding out exactly what she was supposed to be doing.
9. When you’re busy, you forget to love and care for yourself.
Self-love should be non-negotiable in your life. It should be a part of how you remain successful. Taking a vacation or a day off isn’t being lazy or neglecting your responsibilities: it’s a part of remaining in shape holistically, in mind, body, and spirit.
10. When you’re busy, you don’t make time for doing nothing.
The most successful people in the world take time to actively not do things. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules blocks of time that are free periods for him to think, strategize, and refocus. If a CEO can find time, I challenge you to also figure out areas where you can block your own time. If your schedule is preset, try waking up earlier
11. When you’re busy, you equate patience with complacency.
Great things take time and effort. With only a finite amount of time, you can control your effort. Sometimes we think our efforts should put us in a different place immediately. It’s never that simple, though. Being busy creates a myth of perpetual progress: the faster we move, the closer we are getting to our goals, right?
Not always. Your effort, multiplied by your consistency, is what sets you up to capitalize on the moments that are made for you to shine. Patience means you’re not watching the scoreboard, as you’re in the game everyday. Don’t count the number of shots you take, because you only need one to win the game.
12. When you’re busy, you unconsciously sacrifice consistency.
Since being busy isn’t tied to getting work done, its easy to become caught up inside the daily grind. Things change, and the time you had dedicated to gaining a skill or learning something new gets pushed aside. That might appear expedient in the short term, but building that new skill could be the key to taking you or your business to the next level.
13. When you’re busy, you don’t have time to think.
Thinking deeply and clearly is a skill that comes with practice. When we’re busy, we have to deal with floods of information, and often we are responsible for opening the dam. Professor and author Cal Newport describes the benefits of deep work (which requires deep thought) in three ways:
1. Continuous improvement of the value of your work output.
2. An increase in the total quantity of valuable output you produce.
3. Deeper satisfaction (aka., “passion”) for your work.
Those outcomes are exactly what we try to produce as a result of our productivity
14. When you’re busy, you neglect to set boundaries.
Our world is always-on. Texts, tweets, emails, and status updates. Most of them can be dealt with later, but we choose to take all of them at once. Answering email isn’t your job; its a function of the role you have. If you dont have distinct times when you aren’t doing that, then you can easily be side tracked. If you’re focused, you’re always going to be thinking about your work in some aspect, but you shouldn’t always be available. Know the difference.
15. When you’re busy, you aren’t working to your potential.
Being busy requires a consistent shifting of focus, which takes you away from using concentrated effort to complete the tasks you need too. The Harvard Business Review calls this cumulative attention debt, and it keeps people from generating new ideas and solutions to complex problems. Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert has an insightful quote on how to tell if you’re really living up to where you should be:
“Innovation is rewarded, but execution is worshipped.”
You can only execute when you have the space to develop ideas. Being busy takes you out of that space.
16. When you’re busy, your friends can quickly become acquaintances.
Friendship is a critical component in how we engage in the world. We need other perspectives and opinions to help shape us, push us, and develop us. But being busy, we often put our friends on the fringes. We’re so busy on the grind that we don’t have time for their counsel or insights. That’s a risky endeavor, as they are sometimes the only people who are able to tell us about ourselves and have it stick. Make time for the people who will tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it.
17. When you’re busy, you become emotionally unavailable.
How many times have you tried to be there for someone, but knew only 60% of you was there? The other 40% was scattered around various places, and your mind was racing. Executive coach and charisma expert Olivia Fox Cabane lists three key components for developing higher levels of charisma: power, warmth and presence.
18. When you’re busy, you’re really joining a cult no one ever wants to be in.
Everyone is always doing something, and our culture rewards efficiency, even when it’s not practical nor sustainable. The ‘cult of busy’ is an association that we opt into because of work, the speed of life, and an incessant desire to try and do everything. It taps our relationships, drains us physically, and leaves us confused and looking for answers. Work will always be there, but the connections and moments that we cherish and are intrinsic to our humanity, won’t be.
19. When you’re busy, you forget to dream.
Dreams fuel us. They let us break through our current state, and are the building blocks of desire. Without the dream, your passion and drive won’t be sustained long enough for you to actualize them. Dreaming is what allows seemingly ordinary people to do extraordinary things
20. When you’re busy, you put your health in danger.
Being constantly busy can trigger chronic stress, which leads to a host of issues that aren’t good for your body. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you build a routine that prioritizes your health. There are dozens of apps to help you maintain a better regimen and routine. But it’s really about what you want for yourself. If you’re truly serious about doing incredible work, then you will be equally as committed to keeping your body in tune.
21. When you’re busy, you forget your “why”.
Your “why” allows you to achieve and persist under adverse circumstances, when a lot of other people might tap out. It’s what allows you to persevere through crazy work hours in the first place. But you’re not simply a worker. To consistently remember it though, you need to create time to refresh and think about the reason you do what you do.
Having things to do isn’t bad. But busyness without purposefulness is a recipe for burnout and personal dissatisfaction. Make 2015 the year for you to live (or find) your purpose, commitment to being present, and fight to own your schedule. It isn’t easy, but nothing worth having is. Let’s make 2015 the year we measure the importance of the work we do, instead of how much of our calendars we can fill up. Let’s hold each other accountable and make this year the best we’ve ever had.