The word ‘busy’ is more offensive than the f-word.
It’s a way to tell someone “you don’t matter, soz.” We hate being told someone is busy but we, too, use the busy word as well.
It’s a terrible word that hides the truth of what’s really going on. It destroys dreams and warps how much time we really have.
Busy isn’t a sign of success. Being busy is for fools.
Workplace culture makes busy seem like a badge of honor.
“Oh Frank I stayed back until 10 PM last night working on that deck for tomorrow’s meeting.”
He thinks he’s a legend. He hopes his hard work will lead to a promotion. The truth is the promotion will go to the most liked candidate, not the busiest.
In the old dinosaur economy the image above on the left applied. In the new economy the picture on the right applies.
Busy people are prisoners. They don’t have ownership of their time. The last thing you want to do is proactively label yourself as a busy person. The self-talk you say daily determines who you become.
Being busy is easy
Busy is the default state.
Since the internet took over our lives and everyone’s heads became glued to phone screens we’re now permanently busy. In the gym today I tried to have a light workout.
The number of people on their phones blew my mind. I was the only one in the gym not looking at a screen. The clumsy accidents you see because of phones is sad. Heavy weights and phones are dangerous.
Writer Alan Trapulionis said something that made me think:
Contrary to popular belief, being busy is actually a lot easier than being idle.
The real badge of honor isn’t being busy. It’s finding a way to resist the busyness and dare to spend time doing nothing. You have to push back against the world to do it.
In the corporate environment, you have to push back 10x harder. Getting a boss, colleagues or employer to understand you don’t want to be in back-to-back Zoom meetings 24/7 is no easy task.
But if you don’t reject busyness you’ll fall victim to it.
The lie of busyness
Author Ayodeji Awosika shared two examples of busy people he encountered. They were supposed to join him for an education program. But they pulled out because they claimed to be “busy.”
Ayo forces them to break down their schedules.
Person 1: spends one hour every day eating breakfast.
Person 2: Spends 8 hours at work and 2 hours on a commute. They say they have 6 hours of errands and chores per day.
See where I’m going with this …. yes, if we waste time on useless stuff it looks like we’re busy. But do we need an hour for breakfast every day? Could we eat breakfast on our commute? Could we work on our biggest goal in life during 2 hours of daily commutes?
And do we really have 6 hours of chores per day? Could this not be done more efficiently or outsourced?
Busyness = Inefficiency
When you’re efficient you can find NET time (no extra time) to work on your goals.
Busyness can be a cover up
In 2011 my life collapsed.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I fell into a dark depression. At one point I stayed in bed for most of the day for 6 months.
Without even thinking, I became so busy I had no time to pee. I got a call center job that drained all my energy and time. I did extra hours and took as many shifts as I could.
Often, we become busy so we don’t have to feel the heaviness of our current life situation.
By being busy I didn’t have to face my reality. Without time to think or feel I could just live on auto-pilot and hope no one at work could see how broken I was inside.
It lasted a while. Then I kept skipping team lunches and dinners. A few people realized something was up. I finally came clean. I also managed to develop an eating disorder. Food made me physically sick.
Once I told the truth I finally got help. I stopped being busy and began to heal. Don’t let busy be a band-aid for complex problems.
Author Derek Sivers said it best:
To me, ‘busy’ implies that the person is out of control of their life.
“My calendar is jam-packed”
This may be true but what’s missed is everything in your calendar is a choice. You don’t have to do any of it. You can say no. You can take a break. You can push back. You can challenge the need for meetings.
There’s nothing more freeing than clearing your schedule and blaming it on some secret event you can’t reveal to everyone.
There are always sabbaticals or leaves of absence. It’s hard to get life under control when your schedule is out of control.
Use a reset button if your calendar has no clear white space.
Podcast host Debbie Millman says:
Busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period. If we say we are too busy, it is just shorthand for the thing being “not important enough” or “not a priority.” Busy is not a badge. You don’t find the time to make things, you make the time to do things.
So if you have an important goal then make time for it. When I began to write online I had no spare time. I forced myself to find time during lunch breaks and after hours.
Not once did I feel like writing. I just started writing and the good mood followed.
Busyness has a massive hidden cost
It makes me sad.
Busy people have no time and people notice. So when opportunities come up it’s assumed they’re too busy and they’re ignored. Or smart people see their busyness problem and assume their amateurs who can’t manage their time properly. It looks like this…
Unless you can zoom out you can’t see the big picture. There’s so much good in the world. Amazing things are happening. The internet has made it easier to reach people and have opportunities come to you.
But if you stay busy you’ll miss it all. You’ll work yourself into the ground and get nowhere. Then wake up at 65 and think “where did all the time go?”
Being busy is a bear trap.
Some underrated strategies for busyness
The good news is busyness is permanent.
Here are a few things that have worked for me:
1. Turn on monk mode
There are different stages of life.
If busyness is ruining your life then you can temporarily switch on monk mode for 6 months. This is a state where you live like a monk for a while.
Monks have enhanced focus, they spend a lot of time alone, they work on their one big goal of enlightenment, and they cut themselves off from the world and technology.
Now, you don’t need to go as extreme as a real monk. But you can be inspired by their way of life and go off the grid for a while.
I do this regularly. I’m in monk mode right now.
My calendar is clear for the next two weeks. The blank space is helping me rethink the rest of the year and what I want to achieve. It’s also giving me more time with family so I can create those nostalgic moments I’ll remember forever.
Disappear for 6 months and watch it change your life. Choose one goal to pursue.
2. Do your most important task an hour after waking up
Busyness is a war.
As the day goes on the war becomes harder to win. One strategy that’s worked for me is to do my most important tasks within an hour of waking up. Because I wake up at 6 AM every day most of the world is still asleep.
This gives me a head start. I can get some focused creative work done and enjoy the silence. Early in the morning for most people is before they start work. It’s the perfect time to work on yourself and your goals before working on other people’s.
Even one hour in the early morning is a game changer.
Over time you can do 1–2 hours more in the morning. By midday you’ll feel like you’ve won the day.
The extra momentum will become free motivation for the rest of the day. Suddenly those random disasters won’t feel so hard to solve anymore.
An hour before 9 is worth 2 after 5 — Ali Abdaal
3. Get clear on your priorities
Stop saying you’re busy.
Get clear on your priorities so you know what to say yes and no to. Be ruthless. Don’t let people write over the time needed to achieve them.
Create events in your calendar and only invite yourself. That’s how you time-block your way to freedom.
4. Cut out all the BS tasks
Many of us waste time on mediocre junk.
Make chores the least of your priorities. Don’t drive for 30 minutes to save $5 on delivery fees. Prioritize convenience over cost-saving then make up the extra expenses by making more money. Reconsider how many times you need to sweep the floor.
Pro tip: Do chores when your energy is at its lowest.
5. Don’t assume there’ll be a time you’re less busy
Many people will say “I’m busy now but should be free in a month or two. I hope.” Fail.
If you’re waiting to be less busy, Entrepreneur Alex Hormozi says, it assumes that when you get busy again you’ll stop the new goal/habit.
But the best time to start an activity attached to one of your main priorities is when you’re busy. Get good at making the habit stick when everything is chaotic and it’ll keep working for you in the best conditions.
It’s never a good time to do anything.
It’s time to reject busy.
Being busy is a toxic mindset that can destroy everything good in life. Busy people live out of control lives and have zero freedom. That’s no way to live.
The point of life is to enjoy it before it ends. That’s impossible to do when your brain is a mess and you have no time for yourself to think.
Say no to other people’s priorities to focus on yours.