We are all busy. If we are not busy, we’re busy telling other people how busy we are. It’s become a badge of honor, a mantra, a way of life for many. People almost brag about how little sleep they get or how they have almost no time for themselves.

And this is a good thing?

Challenge: ask several people how they are doing. I would be shocked if at least 50% to 75% of them don’t use the word busy in their reply. Some will even say they are “crazy busy”.

My good friend and speaking colleague Victoria Labalme has a segment in her terrific keynote speech she calls “crazy, busy, nuts” and it’s a very popular part of her speech. People like to laugh at how ludicrous it is to maintain a life with very little margin. But laughing may be the only thing they do about it.

Think back to the family Christmas or holiday letters you received last year. My guess is that none of them started out like this –

We enjoyed more free time this year than we ever have…”

As if we aren’t busy enough, we continue to find ways to try to increase our effectiveness by doing more than one thing at a time.

–       Headsets for talking while we are driving, exercising, even eating

–       Watching television while ironing or folding laundry

–       Having a conference call while “enjoying” nature

–       Eating your lunch while working

–       “Watching” your kids play while talking to a friend

We’re not content just to do one thing at a time. I am guilty too. Just last night while cleaning the kitchen after dinner, I watched two Ted Talks (there were a lot of dishes!).

What is “busy” achieving? For those of us who are extremely busy, it’s presenting major health challenges.

A 2021 World Health Organization report showed that overwork can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and ultimately death.

If you think you are too busy, consider the following:

–       When someone asks you how you are doing, think of an alternative to the “I’m busy” reply. Give a specific reply that invites further conversation like, “I am working on a very cool project…” or “Did I tell you I’ve taken up art/dance/music/Zumba?” or “I’m really looking forward to my upcoming vacation.” By rephrasing our priorities from “I’m busy” to something more positive and substantial, we can mentally exit the confused and crazy headspace of busyness and focus less on what may be so worrisome.

–       Concentrate on doing one thing at a time and resist the urge to “save” time by multi-tasking.

–       Stop the madness. Create more white space in your calendar.

–       Take more breaks during your day.

Finally, if you are truly busy and want to improve your effectiveness, I highly recommend the work of Cal Newport and specifically, his book Deep Work.

We can all be more productive with our time and in doing so, it makes room for our passions and relationships outside of work.

#pause #busyprofessionals #leadershipdevelopment

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