24th November 2021

Busyness: The state of having a great deal to do

2021 seems to have been the year of ‘being busy’. I’ve heard my work colleagues, clients, friends, and family all bemoan, “It’s just so busy at the moment”.

I wonder whether being busy has somehow become a badge of honour, a glorified status. When asked if we are busy, we feel that we must agree. The notion being that if you aren’t super-busy, then you aren’t hard-working or important.

If I picture a busy person in my mind, I think of a diary that is bursting at the seams with appointments, projects and meetings, a backlog of emails, and a constantly ringing phone. But the simple truth is, being busy actually makes you less productive. I watch people grappling with their to-do list, attempting to multitask, working overtime to keep up. This simply isn’t good for us.

If we’re busy we are more likely to make poor time management choices. Rather than prioritise the tasks that move us forward, we simply add to the to-do list. I hold my own hand up. I’m guilty of ticking off the small inconsequential tasks so it appears I have completed something rather than stopping and thinking about the tasks I should be focusing on.

A ‘too busy’ mindset means you more likely to attempt to multitask (which isn’t possible anyway). Trying to do too many things at once just slows you down and increases your chances of making mistakes. Why aren’t we learning to say ‘No’? Or if we say ‘Yes’, why don’t we negotiate a realistic time-frame? We need to watch out for the spiral of busyness – the feeling of being busy actually makes you more busy!

We need to understand that being busy is not that same as being productive. Busy is synonymous with feeling rushed, stressed or overloaded. Which all ultimately lead to an impact on our physical health - an increased heart rate, an increase in stress hormones, and at its worst, shallow breathing and feelings of anxiety.

So, what can we do about it? Let’s stop being busy and start being productive. Why don’t we say “I’m productive” and turn it into a positive?

Being busy is about having lots to do; being productive is about having positive results. Instead of measuring daily success by what you have on your to-do list, focus on what you can realistically achieve in your day. It’s not about working harder; it’s about working smarter. That’s a pretty obvious statement that we have probably all read before, but do we actually do it?

For 2022 I’m going to start saying:

 “I’m being productive”

And, I’m going to encourage my colleagues, my clients, friends and family to say the same.

Let’s all focus on being productive instead of being busy.

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