I’m currently reading the 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Groan if you must. I reckon it’s a pretty good book. The concepts he discusses are interesting enough to get you thinking about your own situation which I think is great. In my case it was his take on being busy that inspired me. In fact, within the span of a few days I had a few different resources discuss the concept of being too busy – it’s like the Universe was trying to tell me something!
What being too busy really means.
Being too busy is a myth. We all have stuff to do. What makes one person different to another in this regard? We all have the same amount of minutes in a day. All that differs is how we choose to spend those minutes.
If you’re too busy to do something, it just means that you haven’t made it a priority (yet).
This is why I love the concept of the 4 Hour Workweek. We all busy ourselves with fluff and time wasting activities such that when we go to bed we complain about how little time there was in the day or that we didn’t have enough time to do something we’d planned on doing.
The first thing you should do is evaluate the tasks that make up your day. You’ll probably find there are plenty of things you do on a daily basis that are essentially time sinks. You put aside the core, important tasks that will help you move forward, for tasks that are just fillers. These are tasks that may seem important, but really don’t get you anywhere.
Take email for example. How much time do you spend a day checking and responding to email? It’s a big part of most jobs but does it really help you in the long run? Is maintaining a watchful eye on your inbox going to get you that next pay rise? I don’t think so.
Actually doing the things that you don’t really want to do because they involve work or are a challenge, these are the things that will move you forward. Don’t bother with the rest.
When you start focusing your time on the important tasks, you’ll find that you’re no longer “too busy” in the traditional sense.
Busy in a good way
Okay, so you’re focusing your attention on more important tasks, great. Technically you’re still “busy” in the sense that you’re not just sitting there watching the grass grow but this is a good busy. I wouldn’t even use the word busy. Busy feels like a negative word.
What you’re actually doing is making a conscious decision as to what task is going to provide you with the most value and help you reach your goals. You’re weighing things up and making that choice and you’re okay with that.
Why’s that last line in bold? Because this is about you, your goals and your decisions. Being “busy” in this regard is going to annoy people. It’s going to rub them the wrong way. You don’t have time to go grab a coffee with your co-worker because right now, you’re getting the most value by knuckling down and hammering out that report. (Pomodoro yo!).
Then again, you may decide that at that present moment, taking 15 minutes to relax with a workmate, have a chat, build that relationship and potentially network might be the most effective use of your time.
It’s all about what provides the most value.
This extends to your friendship groups too. Sometimes you just can’t go out. Sometimes going out to the pub to get plastered is not going to provide the most value. Sometimes staying in and spending some much needed couch time with your partner is the best use of your time. Your friends shouldn’t take offense if you’re up front. You’re simply saying that right now, your partner is the most important thing and they should respect that. It’s a good thing to be able to make these determinations.
Disclaimer: I totally think relationships are important. Making time and seeing the value in spending time with friends and family is a must!
Why did this hit home for me?
It had nothing to do with being at the office. It had everything to do with my son. As soon as I had this realisation, I remembered the many times I’d told my son that I was too busy to play with him. Too busy to put on one song (it’s never just one though!) for him to dance around the room to while I worked. Too busy to see the car park of cars he’d set up.
What was I busy with many of those times? Bloody email. A simple freaking email that could wait 20 minutes while I went and enjoyed the most important thing in my life. In essence, I was telling my son, “Sorry kid! You’re not the most important thing right now, this email is”.
In those moments, that “important” email was actually providing less value than spending a few minutes with my son. The world was not going to end if I didn’t hit send then and there. But that’s not the decision I made. I said I was too busy to spend time with him.
Those moments with my son are gone and they’re never coming back.
Now, many times throughout the day, my kids provide the most value. I’ll drop what I’m doing to go spend time with them and make them happy. I will never say I’m too busy again. If I’m doing something that absolutely, positively needs to be done for the sake of my career (not very often!) I’ll tell them I’m working on something extremely important and that the second I’m done, I’m all theirs.
This might mean that I do some work in the evening after they’re in bed to catch up. It sucks but so be it. At the end of the day I’ll have spent time with my boys and completed all of my work.
Since making this change I feel like I’ve been an even better dad than before.
How busy are you?
Take a look in the mirror and see how busy you actually are. Are you the most productive person on the planet where every action is providing the most value? Unlikely. Are you wasting hours every day on stuff that doesn’t really matter? Probably.
Seriously, check out the things you do and cut out the fat. Stop staring at Facebook for hours. Stop checking emails every 5 seconds. Stop doing the things that waste your time.
I’ve done it and I’ve never been as productive and satisfied as I am right now.