The Easy 5-Step Antidote to a Crazy Busy Life
"Oh, hi there. How are you?"
"Oh, you know. Busy as usual. Crazy busy, really. How are you?"
"Same old, same old. Crazy busy. See ya!"
"Bye now. Have a good day."
That was a heart-warming conversation, wasn't it? It's sure to bring those two people closer together and increase their understanding of each other. After all, they have a lot in common.
A fool's trap
"Crazy busy" is modern shorthand for:
- I'm really important and in-demand.
- My activities are valuable and necessary.
- I try never to miss an opportunity or advantage.
- I'm so productive.
The thing about being busy is that it never ends. Especially in our era when we can be connected 24/7/365, there's always something else to do. Always a new opportunity on the horizon. Always a job to tend to or a problem to iron out. The to-do list has no end.
And what is it for? To make a boss happy, to make money for our company, or maybe to make money for ourselves. To meet our family's increasing material needs and desires (because we're almost certainly ignoring their emotional and spiritual needs, just as we ignore our own).
That's right, because crazy busy also means:
- I'm barely keeping up.
- I'm stressed, tired, unfulfilled, and feel like a martyr.
- I always worry I'll miss something and regret it.
- I don't have time to talk, and all my relationships are shallow.
Is this all there is?
What we do today and every day is what our life is. Our to-do list is the meaning of our life, what it amounts to. And it's much too likely that all of those jobs, chores, phone calls, emails, meetings, appointments, and all the rest don't give life much meaning.
Perhaps we think that people of today (or in the past) who live at a subsistence level, working all day every day just to put a roof over their heads and food in their mouths, are the ones without a meaningful existence. They're nothing like us, with our many goals and aspirations!
Maybe. Or maybe "all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, we collect things, but don't know who will get them." (Psalm 39:6)
I think we should say "no thanks" to crazy busy. We should set aside the urgent for the important. And even then, if we're doing important things, we should still have moments of stillness. We should put some space between those important things, instead of cramming everything together all the time. Peace and quiet are important too, and I don't mean just during an expensive vacation.
5 steps to be less busy
I starts with a decision: "I want to be less busy. I don't want to be on this treadmill anymore."
I know we don't all have the same amount of control over our schedules. Some of us have bosses, some don't. Some have commutes, some don't. But take as many of these steps as you can.
One list is your ideal day. The other is all of your current commitments.
Start by eliminating commitments that aren't essential, that don't make up your ideal day. Call or email people and tell them you no longer have time for that commitment. They may be disappointed, but they'll live.
If you have a boss, talk to her. Tell her you'd like to be more productive, and that some of the (non-essential) meetings and interruptions are getting in the way of accomplishing more important tasks. Tell your boss what you'd like to accomplish, what you'd like to change about your schedule, and see if you can reach a compromise.
2. Start following your ideal schedule.
As much as possible, leave spaces between things so you don't have to rush. Allow for large blocks of time so you can focus and find flow, that state of being fully immersed in an activity, at your most creative and productive. Leave at least one block each day for non-work activities, whether that's spending time with a loved one, doing a hobby, being in nature, or something else.
Look at your to-do list and see what you can eliminate, delegate, or do with someone else so as to make the task lighter. Each day, choose just two or three tasks to accomplish on that day.
3. Disconnect from the internet for chunks of time.
When you sit down for a meal or go for a walk, turn your mobile device off or leave it behind. Let yourself be connected to the real world and real people.
Reserve one or two blocks of time for tending to emails and texts so they don't interrupt you throughout the day. Delete notifications so you're not constantly switching your attention between tasks. And reconsider using your email inbox as your to-do list.
Multi-tasking just keeps us distracted and frazzled, and makes every job take longer. Focus on important things rather than all the little things that crop up.
Keep a (physical) notepad handy for jotting down ideas that might be useful but are an interruption to your current task. When you're on your computer, limit your open tabs to three, and if you get caught up opening new tabs to read, bookmark them for later (clear your old bookmarks at the beginning of every month).
Don't save down time for that tropical island getaway. You have only so many moments in this life, and you don't want to waste them – not on the rat race, and not in dreaming of being somewhere else.
Do you want to be happier every day? Learn to focus on the here and now, and enjoy the small, beautiful pleasures you're probably missing in your crazy busy life.
Maybe the next time you meet an acquaintance, you'll be better prepared to make a small but significant (and more enjoyable) connection.
Related article: Una Bella Vita (A Beautiful Life)
Coming Monday: 7 Simple Ways to Make Your House Less Cluttered Today