This week, I have a question about how to stop feeling busy all the time
You can subscribe to this podcast on:
Episode 203 | Script
Hello and welcome to episode 203 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
How many times did you say “I’m busy” last week? How many times have you said it today? If you’re like most people probably a lot. Why is that? Why are you so busy? I wonder if you have ever stopped and asked yourself that question.
The truth is, being busy is just a feeling. It’s not real. We feel busy, but that’s only because we have no idea what needs doing and we just feel there is a lot to do. Now I’m sure those of you listening to this podcast are doing so because you have an interest in being more productive or want to become better at managing your time, so it is likely you have a to-do list too.
And what do to-do lists do? They show you all the things you haven’t done so that just adds to the feeling of being busy.
Don’t feel bad. Most people claim to feel busy all the time and there are a lot of things you can do to remove that feeling and to start feeling a lot more positive about your days and to feel much more relaxed and in control.
Now before we get to that, I want to remind you that we are now well into October and that means it’s the time of year to start thinking about what you would like to accomplish next year. Don’t worry, this is not more to do. This is the fun time of the year where you can let your imagination run wild and create a list of all the things you would like to do and accomplish next year.
To help you with this, you can listen to last week’s podcast where I go through the four questions and three lists and you can download the Annual Planning Template or Evernote template. It’s all there to help you.
Remember, this needs to be fun. Don’t put yourself under pressure. Have fun with it, the decision-making time comes later. Right now, you want to open up your mind, let your imagination do what it’s best at—giving you ideas.
Okay, it's time now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Darius. Darius asks: Hi Carl, I’ve been trying to be more productive and better with my time management for years. I follow you, David Allen and Thomas Frank and you all have such great ideas. But even though I read all the books and watched the videos, I still feel so busy every day. I never have time to do anything I want because when I finish work I am so exhausted. What do you do to stop being busy every day?
Hi Darius, thank you for your question.
Well, the first thing to do is to stop using the phrase “I’m busy”. It’s not true because as I said, being busy is just a feeling. It’s like being angry or bored. It’s just a feeling. It’s a state of mind constructed by your brain and it is not a very helpful state.
The problem with using a phrase like “I’m busy” is you condition your brain to start believing it to be true and then on those days when you don’t have very much to do, your brain will keep telling you you’re busy, so you start to feel busy when in reality you have nothing to do. So make a commitment to yourself to stop using “I’m busy” today.
Instead, make a joke out of it. Laugh at all the things you think you have to do. That way you retrain your brain to put you in a better state. A state of readiness to deal with whatever needs dealing with.
Okay, once you’ve stopped using that phrase—which after all was just a lie you told yourself right?—we can start developing some strategies that will put you in control of what you do each day.
First up is to make sure you have a plan for the day. Now, in the perfect world, you would do that before you finish the previous day. But failing that, make sure before you start your day, write down the two to three things you must do today. These are the big things that will move things forward whether that be a project at work or one of your goals or to spend some quality time with your loved ones.
Having a plan for the day will help keep you focused on what is important that day. The trouble is, you see, we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? No matter how well we construct our days, unexpected events and crises will always come up. A traffic accident may cause you to arrive at work late, your internet could go down or a customer calls you with a big issue. None of these can be planned for and are likely to derail your day.
By having just two or three big things you want to complete that day, you will have the flexibility to manage any of these unexpected events.
You see, most people’s problems start with their to-do list. Having twenty to thirty things on there without any form of prioritisation, is going to leave you feeling you have no time to deal with these inevitable events. And yet, the majority of the things you have on your to-do list will not be important. They might be nice to do, but they won’t move anything important forward. They are just the “busy-work” tasks we like to think are important, but are not really.
Let’s imagine your role at work is in business development. Bringing in new business is part of your core work. To do that you need to make sure prospective new business or clients are sent a proposal. So, if your target is to submit five proposals each week, these will always be your priority for the week. Following up on those proposals will also form part of your core work, so you need to schedule enough time each week to write the proposals and follow up on submitted proposals. So, you could block two hours each day for proposal writing and an hour for following up on submitted proposals. That’s just three hours a day.
For your planning, you start the day with a clear objective to write one proposal and follow up on three submitted proposals. You need to know who you will be writing the proposal for and who you will be following up before you start the day.
Now, remember, this is your core work. It’s what you are paid to do. So this is the work that gets prioritised. Arranging your next holiday or scheduling a meeting with your team, is not a priority. These tasks can be done if and when you have time in between doing your core work.
Now, remember, if you are doing your core work each day and it becomes almost automatic, you will immediately stop feeling busy. You will be very clear about what needs doing and you get it done. It becomes non-negotiable and when you do that, your important work is getting done every day.
The great thing about this is that the more you do it, the more efficient you get at doing it. Which means you will need less and less time to do it. That frees up more time to do some of those less important tasks.
Which leads me nicely to the next strategy. In any successful business its results that matter, not obedience. Now that does not mean you break laws and rules, what it means is if you need to spend an extra thirty minutes on doing work that will get the result you are employed to get, then not responding to a message from your boss or client for thirty minutes will not matter.
If you are getting the results, no boss is ever going to be upset with you. You get results. That’s what matters.
So, what can you do that will get you the results you want? Thinking about doing something will never get results. If you want to do a great presentation on Friday, setting aside time to prepare properly will get you the result. Finding excuses about how busy you are will not.
The same goes for starting a blog or podcast. Thinking about doing it will never get you the result you want. You get the result by writing a blog post or recording a podcast and publishing it. Telling yourself you are too busy to spend time writing or recording is just giving yourself an excuse. The question to ask yourself is: what are you busy doing? And, is what you think you have to do more important than your future goal to be a blogger or podcaster?
So, before you start the week, spend some time thinking about what results you want from the week. And as you start each day, ask yourself: what result do I want from today? When I started today, I wrote down the results I wanted:
I wanted to write this week’s blog post, learning note, and podcast script. I also wanted to interview a friend of my wife’s for an assignment I need to complete for a course I am taking and to exercise.
Now there are a few other things I would like to do today, but my writing, completing the assignment, and exercise are the results I want from today and as long as I do those, I will have had a great day.
And that’s the way I see my day. Writing, interviewing, and exercise. Three things. I’ve almost completed my writing targets today, I did the assignment interview over lunch and I will be exercising once I have finished my writing. If I broke all that down into little steps, my list would be huge. It would give the illusion I was busy, but I have enough time to do everything I want to accomplish today and more. I am not busy, I am focused on getting the most important work done and that is the result I want today and I will get it.
The way to stop feeling busy is to shift your mindset from tasks to results. Do you have ten calls to make today? Then make it a part of the result you want today to do those ten calls. Don’t treat them as ten different tasks. Think of it as one task to complete ten calls. Do you want to exercise today? Then don’t think about having to leave work at a specific time, drive to your gym, get changed, do your work out, shower, and go home. Think of it as one task. Do exercise. You already know what time to leave and to get changed. Just do the exercise.
Are you behind with your email? Then the task is to get up to date with your email. Not to reply to thirty emails. That will give you the illusion you’re busy. The result you want is to get your email up to date. So do that. One task.
So there you go, Darius, being busy is an illusion—it’s just a feeling and we have complete control over our feelings. First, get to know what your core work is. What are you employed to do and make sure you do that work as a priority. Next, stop looking at tasks, group them together and treat them as a single task. You have twenty emails to send today, then getting your email done is one task. The real question is, how much time do you need to get the results you want?
I hope that helps and thank you for the question, Darius.
Thank you too to you for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.