The to-do list can easily become overwhelming. Due dates arrive more quickly than we anticipated and turn into due hours. We all experience seasons where the pace of our lives looks like a full-blown sprint.
There’s also the temptation to wear busyness like a badge of honor. We live in a society that respects the busy people. Tell somebody else that you don’t have much going on right now and they’re likely to delegate a couple of items from their own to-do list out to you. Plus, there’s a tension between productivity and busyness. Productivity is all about getting things done. If we want to be more productive, we often assume that we need to get more things done. This can quickly spiral out of control.
The issue is not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The truth is, a constantly busy lifestyle may be robbing you and I of our ability to be at our best when it counts the most. Herman Melville noted in his book, Moby Dick – “To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not from out of toil.”
To keep busyness from becoming a burden, consider ways you can implement these three approaches throughout your day.1. Slow down.
This may take some work. Many people become addicted to the busyness and find it hard to function at a slower pace. Once again, the question to ask is why you’re so busy. Take time to enjoy your meals instead of gulping them down to get to the next item on your agenda. Try to do less rushing. Work to be fully present in the moment and environment you are in. Think before you speak and make important decisions. Calm your anxiousness about what’s next by taking time to breathe.
2. Learn to be efficient with tasks, effective with people.
Sometimes busyness can be a great strategy for getting things done. But it can create barriers in our relationships with others. You are less approachable when you appear busy (you may like that). John Maxwell has always encouraged leaders to “walk slowly through the crowd.” Be attentive to the people you are with. Look them in the eye and not at the latest notification on your phone. A leader’s greatest communication skill is the ability to listen. Busyness limits your ability to do that effectively.
3. Plan your time.
This approach will help you to accomplish #1 and #2. When it comes to time, someone or something is going to spend your time if you don’t take control of it. You take responsibility for your time when you take charge of your calendar. This is why I developed the Weekly Schedule-Task-Planner. It is a simple one page time management tool that gives you an overview of your week. Oftentimes, busyness is a direct result of poor planning or poor use of time. It’s not something that happens to us, it’s something we do to ourselves. We are all given 24 hours in a day. No one gets any more or any less. You’ll find more opportunities to be beneficial with your time if you have a plan in place for how you’re going to spend your time.
Thomas Jefferson said, “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.” Busyness holds the potential to keep us from being present to the needs of others.
How do you keep busyness from bombarding your schedule?