We have successfully fetishised busyness over business. Society is focused on sacrifice instead of outcomes. Altruism and success have become binaries of each other. It’s the perception of progress that we’re addicted to, not actual progress.
In the face of this reality the question looms in the back of our minds: How can you actually take steps forward on your path? Whatever it may be. It becomes additionally more difficult when you get stuck in a loop of telling people your plans and never executing on them. You receive much of the same dopamine and serotonin reward for telling people about it as actually doing it.
When was the last time you answered the question “how have you been?” with something other than some version of “Good… Busy!” The filling of time has become the norm, if you have not filled the time, you’re wasting it, right? As discussed in this reflection on free time that is usually not true.
The value of your filled time is not a function of how full it is, but the quality of activities you fill it with. Being busy is a matter of priorities.
What is your priority right now? Take a second to think about it, be specific.
Don’t specialise in trivialities
Think if you’re making any of the cardinal “too busy” mistakes:
- Never saying “no” to requests.
- Working on things that don’t bring you any joy, passion or value because you feel like you “should”.
- Not booking time to spend on yourself, doing “nothing”.
That feeling of being “too busy” is panic. A mild panic, but panic nonetheless. The loss of frenetic energy means you are not moving forward but you are exuding energy. Like a particle, vibrating on the spot. Exhausting yourself. Then equating tiredness for a day well spent.
More haste, less speed.
If you find yourself targeting the low-hanging fruit everyday, the activities that are the “easiest”, in your job, in your relationships, in your business, you are doing a sleight-of-hand on yourself.
Take a second to list out the “biggest issues” with whatever your current priority is. The things stopping you from achieving this goal right this second. Then make a list of the things you did today. How many of them line up? How many things you did today moved the needle on the things you really care about?
If they’re misaligned you’re moving away from your North Star. A very easy to thing to do.
On the day-to-day grind, we can become short-sighted: myopic.
Myopia stops you from taking in the big picture. So it’s nice occasionally to step back and consider, am I taking the most impactful steps?
It is possible that these things are not even the “hardest” things but just the things that scare you most. That the barrier to complete them is no higher than these “easy” things you are doing voraciously, but mentally you construct your own road blocks that are a mile high.
Pareto distributions can be found across the manmade and natural worlds, where 20% of some population contribute 80% of the value of some kind. Translating this to the topic at hand would say there are 20% of the activities you complete in a day that contribute 80% of the impact on your life.
So if you were to cut down the other 80% of tasks, you’d only lose 20% of the value of that day. Assuming the above presumption of equal effort of each task (just different levels of fear associated) then you will cut back your energy output by 80%. Leaving you more left in the tank.
I don’t know about you, but when my tank empties, my quality-of-life drops in all areas. Patience gets snappier, leading to more conflicts, lower quality interactions. Then my self-talk gets more negative, the spiral continues.
By being more selective and deliberate with what you spend your time on you can improve your quality of life.
Pareto in practice
It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing fewer, more impactful things.
Eventually you could get so good at this, that only doing one thing a day could still move the needle forward. If it is the really, really vital thing that needs doing. Making that sale you’re scared to call, planning a much needed date-night you keep putting off, calling that therapist to book an appointment. We all have the same 24 hours, its about making more haste, and less speed. To calm down and still improve your outcomes.
I’ll tie this up drawing attention back to the first 3 tenants of Diversify Your Self Esteem that relate most to this.
- Think slow and fast to give your life volume.
- Be mindful in your life to bring clarity.
- Remember that there is no point in your life that is not now to bring deliberation.