TADS Insights

Be Less Busy

1 November 2014


How often have you been asked the question, “Are you busy?”  It’s an interesting question because behind it lurk some fundamental assumptions that influences how you might answer – irrespective of the truth.  Perhaps the most significant assumption is that being busy is a good thing.  But is this true?

When you look at the lives of really successful people (as I have), you’ll notice that those who achieve extraordinary results don’t seem very busy at all.  Indeed, one of the main reasons for their success is their ability to focus on the few things that really matter and then concentrate their attention until they achieve the outcomes they want.  In contrast, less successful people tend to take on too much and have a more “scattergun” approach to their lives.

If you want to become less busy, and more successful, it pays to look at all aspects of your professional and personal life.  Here are 10 questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you know what’s truly important to you?  Because we cannot do and be everything, we need to make choices about what we value, what our priorities are, and what we can ignore.
  2. If there is excessive clutter in your life, what can be done to eliminate it?
  3. In what ways do the things you say to yourself keep you busy on the wrong things?  By becoming aware of your self-talk, you can take action to change the soundtrack.
  4. How do you interact with information?  Are you an information junkie?  Are you addicted to social media, phones, or email?  If so, you are likely to be spending your time on activities that make you “busy” but are you being successful?
  5. What are your beliefs about being busy?  Do you see it as a badge of honour?  Perhaps by reviewing your beliefs, you’ll begin to notice that it’s your beliefs that drive your behaviour and therefore the results you get in your life.
  6. When you are less busy, you’ll have more energy for doing things that matter the most.  On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you right now in terms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy?
  7. Are you a person who takes responsibility for the circumstance of your life?  If so, you’ll find it much easier to make good choices and live a life that is less hectic both professionally and personally.
  8. When it comes to doing things, are you able to maintain concentration, or are you easily distracted?  People who achieve more success are better able to zone into what needs to be done.
  9. How are you with managing your time?  We all have the same amount of time every week – 168 hours.  We don’t manage our time, but the use of our time.
  10. Successful people constantly measure how they are doing.  If you are a busy person, can you review your life and perhaps make some different choices?

Busyness isn’t essential.  Yes, there is a lot to do, but believing you’re always busy because there is so much to do is both false and unhelpful.  When you look at the notion of being busy with fresh eyes, you might see that busyness is not so much a badge of honour but a misalignment between what’s important to you and where you direct your effort.  The author Robert Louise Stevenson was onto something: “Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality.”

The great news is that being busy is a choice.  It’s a choice that’s open to you every moment of every day.  Choose carefully.

-- David Keane