Being Busy: Are You Really As Busy As You Think?
Which is more important: yourself or your schedule?
It’s a strange question with a seemingly obvious answer: Yourself. Unfortunately, for many that answer just isn’t true. More and more working people are unconsciously prioritizing their schedules by being busy, inefficient and unhealthy.
Learning to relax sounds like a cliché, but it is something we all need to learn how to do as adults. Especially since many of us have lost the time to do so.
Being busy is important, but by overdoing it you put yourself and work at risk.
So, here are five ways you can save yourself from your schedule:
1. Plan for Nothing
When building your schedule, be sure to create a few moments or hours of nothingness. No plans and no agendas. Just you, yourself and whatever thoughts you may have.
Many people think idleness is akin to laziness, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, doing nothing acts as both a time to recharge and conduct unconscious creative thinking. Some of the world’s greatest ideas came from letting oneself do nothing. Just ask Alexander Fleming, the chemist that invented penicillin after randomly looking through some Petri dishes. (You can’t actually do that, he is very much deceased — but the point is that free time can be brilliant.)
If anyone asks why you’re doing nothing instead of being busy, simply tell them you’re taking some “me” time. After that, let yourself enjoy nothingness for a spell. You’ll immediately notice how the reprieve from the day changes your work and outlook.
2. Account for Chaos
Do you know how to make the powers of the universe laugh? Make important plans and watch them crumble.
Often life can throw you a curveball that you can’t deal with, especially when you’re being busy. One wrong move can collapse plans in your schedule, so account for the reality that problems exist and will occur.
This isn’t about floods or fires — it’s more about flat tires or impromptu doctor’s visits. Protect yourself from chaos by knowing alternative solutions to everyday problems. Having a flat tire isn’t a worry if you’ve got a working knowledge of bus routes. Feeling ill shouldn’t be a worry if you know your local nurse hotline.
Solutions like these cost relatively little in time but can protect you from panic and worry in future.
3. Narrow Your Scope of Activities
Having multiple things to do in a day can seem fun or productive, but in reality, it’s monstrously distracting.
The human brain is naturally trained to multitask, but it isn’t prepared to multitask on a modern scale. That means a full list of activities, fun or otherwise, can lead to mental strain, exhaustion and inattention.
In the book “Mastermind,” author Maria Konnikova talks about how attention is a lot like a muscle. If you do too much, you run the risk of burning it out and faltering on tasks. Save yourself from burning out by being busy in shorter bursts rather than one long workout.
Look at your schedule and break it down to its core tasks, then break those tasks down further. If that list is too long for you to write down, then you will certainly exhaust yourself before the day ends.
4. Itemize: What You Want vs. What You Need
Plan what you need vs. what you want. This seems obvious in hindsight, but when making plans it’s actually something people hardly do. Like the protagonist in a 90’s romantic comedy, most of us are interested in having and doing it all. Thinking like this is ambitious, but it is also shortsighted.
Over exerting yourself by doing what you want and what you need is simply you doing both poorly. You should dedicate focus on getting things you need:
And strive for things that you want:
This doesn’t mean you should only be doing what you need. You’re a human being (I hope) and that means cutting loose from time to time is important. When building your schedule, create room for a healthy balance of both necessities and desires.
You could work eight hours and play for two. Or work for four hours and relax for one. Any variation of work and play is fine as long as it helps keep you relaxed and on top of your form.
Planning like this can sometimes mean doing less of what you need or want. That’s okay. Life isn’t a sprint — it’s a journey. Balancing what you want and what you need will help you become productive as well as happy. Simply put, you’ll become Jerry Maguire.
5. Build Room for Others in Work
Working alone and working with others are two very different things. Working with others allows you to socialize and blow off steam while being busy. Working alone requires focus and isolation that can build tension.
Working with other people isn’t the same as taking a vacation. However, it is a lot more tolerable than being alone.
If you can manage a challenging schedule to include others working with or around you, work becomes less tedious and exhausting.
Although, be cautious with this. Not all people interact with others in the same ways. We all know someone that can talk your ear off without even trying. Don’t use other human beings to stop being productive. You should use other people to soften the mental strain of being busy.
This also helps broaden your perspective and vent some negative emotions. By knowing how others are working you can learn lessons to incorporate into your life. You can also vent to others around you should you feel particularly overworked in the day.
Managing a busy schedule can seem like an impossible task sometimes. However, all it really takes is some quiet time and self-inventory. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself big questions, contemplate on the purpose of seemingly obvious choices or experiment with time. Your life is not something that should be wasted on rushed appointments or overwhelming expectations. It should be enjoyable and something you care about.