Busyness is defined as the state or condition of having a great deal to do. On the surface, that doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing. But, let’s dig a little deeper into the causes of busyness.
Insights into the causes of busyness can be found in its synonyms, which include descriptions like time-starved, overworked, swamped, bustling, over scheduled and over committed. Sometimes, we talk about busyness by saying “not enough time in the day” or “my to-do list is overwhelming.”
However, time hasn’t changed. Each person each day gets 24 hours, not a second more or a second less.
So, why has there been a surge of busyness in modern society? Is it our smart phones, our ever-growing interconnectedness, or our attempts to keep up with the Jones?
While all of these aspects may contribute, I think the answer lies in something deeper and more subtle, which is the addictiveness of busyness and its deceptive ability of to allow us to avoid critically important work.
Meaning, its not your busiest days in which you move your life forward in meaningful ways.
It’s the days in which you tackle big, gnarly, uncomfortable actions.
Busyness as an Alternative to Critically Important Work
Being busy is one of the biggest misconceptions of our time and what keeps most people from critically important actions. Sadly, busyness is what keeps most people on a hamster wheel running fast on their way to, well, nowhere.
Much like addiction to drugs or alcohol, being addicted to busyness is widespread, although perhaps, more socially tolerated.
Why is it addictive? Because being busy is a pleasing substitute and deceptive alternative for avoiding important work.
On the upside, this means there is enormous leverage for anyone who can step back and ask, “What really matters here?”
Once you know what really matters, summon the courage to do it. Do it immediately, because busyness is a force that is always lurking around, eager to take back over. You can’t let busyness creep back in until you’re in control of what needs to be done.
But what about life’s odds and ends, those demands and responsibilities that can stack up and feeling overwhelming?
You absolutely can have “busy” bursts (that is, periods where you deal with life’s lower level responsibilities), but preferably you’ll tackle these things:
- After the most important actions for the day are complete.
- For a pre-determined amount of time.
Every day, if not multiple times per day, it’s essential that to have reflective time to reset your mental and physical state. For me, lifting weights, playing rugby, long showers, quiet walks, sitting on my front porch and petting my dogs are how I reset. I also find that learning from others through podcasts and books can be reflective. But, I have to be particularly careful with this, because these written and audio content can also be used as a distraction.
Ask yourself, what do you do to reset, gain mental clarity and summon the power to tackle life’s most critical work?
Unfortunately, in the workplace, reflective time is frequently mistaken for laziness, simply because it tends to involve stillness. In actuality, it’s the opposite, so it’s sad, unfortunate and damaging that so few employers recognize this.
Thankfully, Google is breaking this trend with its sleep pods that support office napping! These beds look like a bit like a combination of a spaceship and a high-tech hibernation chamber. They also include a sound system for people who like to sleep to the sound of white noise or relaxing music.
How the World’s Greatest Minds Think (And Act)
Of course, nearly all of the world’s highest achievers recognize the need to overcome busyness. The people who are creating 10X and 1000X and 10,000X the impact, wealth and happiness of others are always thinking this way, focusing on important actions over quantity of actions.
For example, author and activist Glennon Doyle wrote every day from 4:30 – 6:30am for years knowing this was her most important daily action, even above being a mother to three young children. This is not uncommon among high performing writers and artists, that they tackle their craft first thing in their day.
Even Grant Cardone, an author, speaker, sales expert and real estate mogul who is always moving fast (literally and figuratively) understands this point. In his work, he frequently explains that not all actions and not all relationships matter equally. It’s my observation that he avoids the lure of busyness. In contrast, he implements highly important actions with great energy and at speed, because he is internally committed to and convinced of their value.
Regardless of how many high performers share this belief, it is perhaps Tim Ferriss who captured it best, saying:
“Being busy is a form of laziness, lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding critically important but uncomfortable actions.”
Because I prefer simplicity, I simply say: Busyness is laziness.
What can you do today to be less busy, while having greater leverage? Let me know in the comments or send me a note here.