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21 September 2021

Business vs. Busyness: How to live a purpose-filled life

Jairek Robbins

In the world we live in today, we often find ourselves saying we are too busy to do this or too busy to make time for that. This busyness craze is now seen as a norm, and you may often feel guilty when you catch yourself “doing nothing.” What we need to be paying attention to is business, and not busyness. Not sure what I mean? Read on and see if you can make the needed changes to tame your busyness and pay attention to your business.

A flawed metric for measuring productivity

We often think that packing activity into every waking moment is a measure of productivity. While productivity requires taking action, being busy for its own sake doesn’t correlate with productivity.

Let’s use a common example to illustrate this. We are all familiar with those gadgets you can wear on your wrist and they keep count of how many steps you have walked in a day. Assume that the device tells you that you notched 1,000 steps today; does that equate to better physical health or fitness? Some, or even most, of those steps may have been leisurely/lazily taken strides from your desk to the coffee room, and yet another person may have notched 1,000 footsteps while sprinting. Whose 1,000 steps mattered more? Activity doesn’t necessarily equal to productivity!

It is wrong to equate busyness to productivity, and the sooner you can learn and implement taking care of your business, the better. Here is how you can break free of busyness and mind your business.

Define what’s of value to YOU

Many people spend their lives spinning and really getting nowhere because they keep busy doing things which don’t add value to them and their lives. For example, if you say family is important to you but you are always “too busy” to have dinner with your family and you get home long after your kids have gone to sleep, are you living your life in accordance with what matters most to you?

To break free from busyness, start by defining what holds value to you and allocate your time accordingly. Where you put your time and money is a more reliable indicator of what is important to you. Not what you say or display on your desk.

Choose-to vs. have-to

Think about the implications of saying “I choose to…” and compare that with the implications of saying “I have to…” Choosing signifies that YOU are in charge and determine where your time and other resources are allocated. On the other hand, “having to” indicates that you have no control and that external factors/forces determine where your attention or effort is invested.

Busyness is a result of “having to” because you don’t exercise your ability to decide which tasks or activities to attend to. This is the classic route people take and end up stuck on a treadmill that takes them nowhere.

Get off the treadmill by changing your thought processes away from “having to” to “choosing to.” In this way, you will consciously think about every allocation of time and other resources before it happens. If such an allocation isn’t for the good of your business, you will not choose to do it.

Learn to be still

If you don’t have a plan for your life, you will spend your entire life working the plan of another person’s life. One way to avoid this sad eventuality is to learn to be still (versus being a busybody). Being still involves quieting your mind and body so that you can be more present and grounded.

Meditating for at least 10 minutes each day is one way to keep still and focused on business rather than on busyness. Being still will also help you to assess the direction you are taking and what you are doing to get to a desired destination/goal. You can then course-correct in a timely manner so that you don’t wind up on the treadmill to nowhere.

Effectiveness over efficiency

This may seem counterintuitive, but trying to squeeze the most from every minute, every dollar and every team member can blind you to the long-term interests of your business since you are obsessed with immediate results.

Let me give an example that business owners may relate with. If you have a high-performing salesperson who doesn’t live by the values of your company (honesty and caring for everyone, for example), you might be tempted to hang onto that person because of the sales they close (efficiency). However, keeping that person on your payroll will hurt the long-term effectiveness/health of your business because their toxic attributes will dampen morale, cause attrition of other good employees, and eventually damage the reputation of your business.

As this example shows, chasing after efficiency alone can result in busyness, which isn’t helpful to your business in the long term.

To avoid busyness, consciously decide to pursue what is good for the long term health of your business and once those efforts start paying off, it will be worth a lot more than the temporary efficiency you could have attained while neglecting effectiveness. 

Set aside breaks and time to rest

It is important for you to take at least one day off each week in order to recharge and position yourself for higher productivity. As much as possible, avoid sneaking anything work-related into that day you set aside. You will notice that you will return sharper, more energized and ready to hit those business numbers.

In contrast, busyness ends up switching off your brain and you work on autopilot, not minding whether what you do has any meaning or produces results. Your business inevitably suffers if you keep in this mode for too long.

Also, squeeze in a nap during your work day and try to block out 7-8 hours for sleep each night. This rest will allow your mind and body to reset, and you will remain clearheaded on a day to day basis. Stress will also not buildup since you have a built-in system to decompress. Your productivity will skyrocket and busyness will be banished for good! 

Leave some wiggle room while making your schedule for the day

When making your to-do list, avoid cramming so many activities on your calendar. For example, don’t schedule a meeting with John from 9:00a.m. to 10:00a.m. and then schedule a presentation with your team starting at 10:00a.m. Instead, add a 10-15 minute cushion in-between those engagements so that you can complete anything that needs to be completed or allow your mind to unwind from one activity in preparation for another. This “breathing space” will kill the busyness habit and you will end up improving your productivity.

Note that we are not encouraging anyone to become lazy. We are saying that you need to be more strategic about everything you do so that your efforts and resources are only directed to the things that matter. Work smarter, banish busyness and keep business at the center of all you do.

So, how has busyness been holding you back from leading a balanced life in which you attain all your goals? Share in the comments below how making a change can transform your life!

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins

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