“I am so busy, that I can’t see straight!” “My “to do” list is pages long.” “I’ve been working all day, and have accomplished nothing.”
Does any of this sound familiar? Not only have you probably said it to yourself and your friends, but you have overheard strangers in the grocery checkout line share the same frustration. It is the topic of self-help books, talk shows, productivity gurus, and magazine articles. Experts are standing in line to advise you how to get more done in less time. Busyness is everywhere! Even children, whose main job used to be just being children have been swept up in the maelstrom of frantic activity.
Is your daily life an extreme sports event?
So what’s up with this compulsion to be always “doing” something? Are not we human beings? Why do we act like human doings instead? Multitasking has become the way most of us live, despite the fact that research shows when you multitask, neither job is done well.
To do lists are as much of daily life as air and water. There is nothing wrong with lists of chores that you would like to accomplish. I have a to do list (in fact often I have several, one for each area of my life). I use my list as a reminder of things I don’t want to forget. Neuroscience shows us that the brain is a thinking device, not a storage device. The more things I can get out of my head and onto paper, the more room I have for coming up with great ideas. Checking something off the “to do” list feels like a great accomplishment, but the quality of the items checked off on that list is the key difference between busyness and productivity.
The insidious aspect of busyness is that too often it is used as a barometer of self worth. “If she is that busy, she must be really important” or “I must be able to juggle all of these balls in the air at once so people will respect me”. In the work setting, employees feel that they must get in earlier and leave later than their co-workers so the boss knows they’re working hard.
Therein lies the fallacy. Working longer does not mean working better, harder or smarter. It just means working longer. It is important not to confuse the length of time worked or the frantic pace of work with the results of work. Do not confuse activity with productivity!
There are ways to turn the same amount of “doing” hours away from busyness and toward meaningful accomplishments. First, do a brain dump of all the things you think you “have” to do. All of them. Don’t censor yourself, just write. Now pick the most important 2 or 3 (because I can hear you groaning from here, you can pick 5, but no more than 5). Those become your to do list for the day. Rank them in priority order, and if some have several components, list them separately under the general topic. Now, knowing that you only have those 3 (or 5) things to do, go forth and do them. DO NOT GET DISRTACTED!! DO NOT ADD TO THE LIST unless it is a matter of life, limb or eyesight.
You will experience busyness withdrawal at first, but bear with it. Soon you will realize your productivity has increased, and you might even have time for some fun.
Do you feel trapped by busyness? If not, God bless you. If so, what do you do to cope? Post your comments below.