Today, I want to talk a little bit about the idea of “busy.” Culture today glorifies busy. We use it in our everyday conversation. “How have you been?” “Oh, I’ve been so busy!” as in busy getting stuff done in a scheduled time, or busy running around like a crazy person, unorganized doing whatever comes to mind next? Or maybe a little of both! But is busy better? Should we stay busy? Should we have scheduled time to relax? Here are a few thoughts I have related to “busy” and how instead we can focus on being more productive.
Busyness or Productivity
First, let’s clarify being busy vs. productivity. To me busy means spending a lot of time doing a lot of things, with little result to show for it. Productivity means being efficient with your time to produce a result in your life. I think we would all prefer being more productive over being busy for the sake of busyness.
For most of us life feels like a balancing act some days between responsibilities, job, family, social life, errands. Life isn’t always perfectly balanced all the time. There are often seasons of life where one thing takes priority over another. And that’s ok. I’m not talking about stopping the things you have going on in order to live a “less busy” life. Instead, I’m talking about prioritizing and taking the time to plan out your life so you can have more productivity. Use your time wisely for less busy work and more results.
Designing a Schedule that works for you.
One thing I’ve realized when designing my own schedule, is that there’s a lot of random little stuff to be done that can clog up my brain if I’m not careful to thoughtfully schedule it out. I’m talking about random projects, mail piling up, laundry, on top of work, working out, meal prep, family time (I’m sure you can insert your own tasks you have going on).
Something I’ve started to use is to make a list of ALL the things. Like everything I can think of to get done for the week. I call it a Thought Download, something I learned from Brooke Castillo’s podcast. After I write it out, I assign it a day and a time. Now I know everything is accounted for and I end up being more productive with each hour in the day. This may seem over the top, but on the days I’ve done this, it’s amazing how much I can get done in a pretty short amount of time. It can be as simple as sorting through the mail the moment it comes in. Throw away junk mail right away, file bills right away. Don’t leave piles on the counter.
Now, scheduling out your day or week can take time, but ultimately there is more freedom in figuring out time to set aside for certain tasks, and being accountable to yourself to complete those tasks.
You may have a different schedule than I do, but I guarantee there are 15 minutes of your day that you could probably account for better and get a few of those nagging tasks done. Won’t it feel amazing?
I wanted to talk about work flow a little, and how it relates to “busy.” We get things done in as much time as we give ourselves. Have you worked a job with a 1 hour lunch break? What about 30 min? What if you have an errand to run during that time? I guarantee you will eat faster. What if you give yourself 5 minutes to write that email? How about 5 minutes to get the laundry in. 1 hour? You will get it done in 1 hour. I’ve been giving myself 1 hour to write something every day. My rule for myself is that I have to “produce” something. Not just work on something, but actively try to have a finished result. I have to write the whole thing, edit, and finish it in 1 hour.
It’s been amazing to give myself deadlines like this because before I would spend a lot of time on “research,” or “it’s not good enough” thoughts, instead of being more productive and intentional with my work.
It’s that old saying “Done is better than perfect.” It’s my new mantra in a way, from a recovering perfectionist. And I know what I write may not be perfect, but at the end of the day (or month, or year!) I’ll have a body of work that is much more than I will have ever had before, when I was “working on” things but not getting it done.
Find what works for you. Put in the big rocks first, the things or appointments you know you are accountable to. Then find little times to do the other things. You might be surprised at how many things you can get done!
If I’m not busy, am I lazy?
I hear some people say “I like being busy.” I think that’s fine, but just recognize the difference between times you are telling yourself you are busy and putting too much on your plate vs. also taking care of you and being more productive with your time.
For example, there are times I really need to rest and don’t feel like socializing. I’m an introvert at heart. Of course there are times I need to go be with people and get the things I need to do done, and fulfill commitments. But it’s also perfectly ok to say no and take a night in to rest. If your commitments are making you feel crazy, maybe there is something that can go. Which leads to my next point…
Simplicity in a Schedule
Being more productive and less busy might even look like simplifying some things. What can you cut out of your day to make time for more of what will give you long term results? Where are you spending your time? Just like a financial budget, sometimes it is good to look at our time budget and see where we have time wasted.
A work in progress
To be honest, I’m a total work in progress with my schedule. It’s been something I’ve been working hard to improve on this year. With job changes, now working from home, my schedule looks different than it ever did. I’m still figuring out what works best for our family. That’s looked like getting up earlier, scheduling in work out time, work time, chore time, errand time. It will continue to evolve as we enter new phases of life. I hope to always be learning, growing, evaluating. One of the biggest things is having sufficiency with where I am in life right now, while still learning and growing. What worked? What didn’t? And what would you do differently moving forward?
I hope those ideas helped and feel free to add your own in the comments!