The Fallacy of Being Busy. How to Simplify Your Attention and Focus on What is Truly Valuable
We all have that one friend we never see at social outings because the friend is “too busy.” Or, maybe we’ve caught ourselves saying, “Sorry, I can’t. I’m too busy.” We have all probably been caught up in a crazy, hectic schedule, and just when we think we can take a breath, we fall back into that cycle of “too busy.”
What if we can change that stress into “good busy” by accepting that life is full of things that need to get done, but giving ourselves permission to focus on our goals and dreams?
Make a List of Priorities
You just can’t care about everyone and everything all the time. If you have a to-do list a million miles long and every item is fighting to be at the top of that list, you’ll be busy and not very efficient. You need to learn how to focus your mind on what you value.
Take a moment to whittle down those priorities to things you care the most about. If you want to make a relationship a priority, then you must carve out time to make it a part of your day; then it will be the little things, like vacuuming or taking out the trash, that might have to take a backseat for that day. If you’re trying to get adequate sleep, set timers to remind you to get ready for bed.
Consider making two to-do lists—the night before. The first includes the things that absolutely must be completed, and the second an inventory of things you can do if there’s downtime or that can wait. Write these lists in your Weekly Layout, and mark any big events or deadlines in the Monthly Layouts.
The term “mindfulness” is frequently heard nowadays, and for good reason: it’s an important practice when you’re trapped in a cycle of busyness of life. Try to become aware when you’re wrapped up in stress or when you’re using “busy” as an excuse to not take care of yourself. Rather than go on autopilot, make choices to take a 10-minute walk, have a 20-minute nap or enjoy a meal. Consider how these choices play into your life goals—does creating time for quick exercise help towards your health goals or does having a cocktail with a friend prioritize a relationship? With some practice, you’ll learn how to focus your energy on the things you value the most.
Don’t Ignore Your Physical Health
Chronic stress will kill you; your cortisol levels shoot through the roof and your amygdala takes over and forces you to live in a constant “fight or flight” scenario. All this stress takes a toll on your body and you could develop health problems like heart disease, sleep disorders, weight gain, anxiety, depression and so on.
Speaking of mindfulness, make it a priority to start a meditation routine. Schedule a workout on that to-do list. If you write something in your Passion Planner, then it’s a priority and you should make an effort to get it done. Some days, it might go on the side of “doesn’t have to get done today,” because yes, you’re busy, but find opportunities to take the stairs or walk around the block to at least get in some physical exertion.
Find Ways to De-Stress
Keep a stress ball at your desk at work or school, or use a tennis ball to roll under your feet for a quick massage. Make a de-stress playlist and have it readily available to change your mindset or boost your mood. Practice deep breathing. Find ways to get rid of the negative self-talk in your brain. As an ambitious person, you’re going to get stressed. Chronically busy people let stress affect their performance, while productive people use it to fuel their performance or know when it’s time to say, “no thanks, not now.”
Revisit Your Goals
Always go back to your Passion Roadmap and revisit the goals you made for yourself. Are you scheduling to-do list items that help you reach those dreams? Write in the Monthly Reflections, be objective and see where you can make some changes. Continually remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing to keep yourself motivated. That way, rather than just talking about how you will change and ending up in the circle of busyness, you will be inspired to create that change.
Balancing a busy life involves managing your time so you don’t get stuck just going through the motions. Use your Passion Planner to highlight what’s important to you or what can be placed on a back burner, so you can focus on what you truly value in life.
Cara Batema is a freelance writer and musician based in Los Angeles. She likes to write about the arts and psychology.