Have you noticed that whenever you get in a conversation and you ask how things have been, they respond with “Oh, work has been busy” or “Staying busy with the family” or something to do with “busy.” I ask and get some variety of that response from people all the time. I even catch myself mentioning how busy I am sometimes. I hate being busy, when people tell me they are busy and busy as a concept all together. My advice (to myself and to others) is stop being busy! Realistically speaking are you truly that busy all the time? I really don’t understand it. People a lot of the time are busy doing nothing, absolutely nothing. Maybe people don’t like me that’s why they are busy? Hm… that is very possible. Maybe it comes with age, now that everybody has become an important adult, they are busy because that’s what productive adults do. I say doing the opposite of being busy can be even more productive and definitely more rewarding.
When asked how things are going with work, it is expected that you to say you are busy. When you say the complete opposite of it, your response is met with complete confusion. When I am asked how have things been, I myself sometimes think about replying with “busy this and busy that”, but really, I’m never too busy that I can’t do more and I don’t like being busy myself. So, instead I respond with, “Not doing much, living life.” After a stunned pause, they almost always ask “Oh, you don’t have work right now?” If they don’t say anything at all they typically think I’m not being proactive or that I am being lazy. Admittedly, I am lazy, but only because I choose to be lazy. Really, I’m not even that lazy, just not too busy to enjoy life or be open to taking on new opportunities.
You see at any one time I’m working on a multitude of projects accomplishing tasks and pushing them forward. I also try not to give in to the stress that can be a byproduct of these projects. I am successful in avoiding stress about 75% of the time, which in turn, helps with not being busy or preoccupied. I also have the added benefit and privilege of actually doing work that I find challenging and enjoyable. This gives me the motivation to push projects forward. All the while, I still have enough time to play football, frisbee, snowboard, watch movies, sleep, stay up late, workout and enjoy all the activities and people in my life.
How do you combat succumbing to being “busy”? With the enemy of “busy”, focus. If instead of spreading yourself thin and doing a thousand different things you just focus on what it is you are doing. You will not be busy. Just focus in on the task at hand or what you are looking to improve. Focus on your job, on your family, on knitting, on a movie, on your golf game, on a phone call. Just hone in your focus on the goal at hand and knock it out. Be in the moment, enjoy it, conquer it, then go and do something else. It is important to avoid distractions, block out social media, your phone. Focus on the single goal until you have made the progress you are looking for, then do something else. SIMPLE, right? Of course this is much easier said then done with our culture of mass distractions and the tendency to playfully blame attention deficit disorder. It takes practice, patience and discipline.
A tool that helps me avoid being busy and helps me stay focused is a to-do-list that I can check off and add things to. The reminders app on my iPhone is perfect tool for that. I’m always aiming for getting that list empty. There are a ton of to-do list apps you can find or even an old fashioned piece of paper will do, just stop being busy and next time someone asks how work is, take out the list and get specific. You never know when someone might have a solution to your problem or an opportunity for you to learn.
Another drain on one’s ability to focus and avoid being busy is the people that you work with. Work with people that will push you to succeed and collaborate with people for a mutually beneficial work relationship. Although it can be difficult, there is nothing wrong with saying no to things that you do not want to do. Actually, if you say no to those things, then you will have more time to focus on the things that are important and, in turn, you will get more things done and crossed off your list. You only have so much time in your life and you will never get it back, so avoid people who just suck the time from your life. Spend your time with people with whom you can grow and benefit from a mutually influential and inspiring relationship.
Here is something I’ve noticed on the topic of being busy. People who are late to everything are presumed to be busy people. No, these people are lacking focus. Simply focus on showing up on time to where you said you are going to be and you won’t be a busy mess. On top of that, people will stop thinking of you as an asshole for always keeping them waiting. I learned punctuality from my father. He is on time to pretty much everything, ever, especially flights. He shows up at least 16 hours before his flight, just in case. Thankfully, being prompt is a trait I acquired from him. I almost obsess over being on time. If I start running late, I get stressed and upset, which is also unproductive, so I avoid it altogether. It’s a vicious cycle.
The takeaway of this post is to evaluate how “busy” you actually are and if your whole life revolves around tasks that you don’t enjoy doing. I’ve been told, “sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do.” Yeah, it is true, but it also sucks and should be avoided, not taken as necessary. I do understand having to do things I don’t necessarily want to do, but that makes me “busy” and takes me away from things I do want to do. Don’t be busy anymore start taking breaks from the busy-ness of business. Next time someone asks you how have things been? I dare you to tell them you are not busy, I double dare you. You never know what doors might open if people don’t think you are too busy to engage with them. Stay focused my friends.