By Margie Warrell
I know you're busy. Perhaps you're even thinking to yourself, "I hope this article isn't too long because I have far too much on today to spend much time reading."
But as Henry David Thoreau said, "It is not enough to ask why you are so busy. The question is, what are you so busy about?"
Are the things which keep you running around all day giving you a deeper sense of fulfillment, happiness and peace of mind? Do they align with your values and priorities? If not, perhaps your busyness is propelling you in the wrong direction. Or, perhaps it is an excuse to distract you from facing those dissatisfying areas of your life.
You may have heard the saying, "If you climb to the top of the mountain but haven't enjoyed the journey, then it wasn't a successful climb." Are you so busy climbing to achieve your goals that you are missing out on the views along the way?
I encourage you to pause for a moment to reflect on your busyness; not only about what you are so busy doing but also how you could be doing things differently - with less effort and stress, and with more ease and fun. This will ensure you are moving toward, rather than away from, a more enriching and enjoyable life.
Shifting your busyness to being more positive and enjoyable
Being busy is fine when you feel grounded, calm and on track to accomplishing goals that are meaningful to you. Most days, I love my busy life doing work I enjoy, being a mom to my four great kids - and the list goes on. But some days I struggle to maintain calm and need to give myself "time out" to collect myself and rethink how I can move forward again without the pervading sense of urgency enveloping me. Nothing is worth forfeiting my peace of mind and ability to my life now.
My busyness and the tasks I need to accomplish are generally not the issue. Rather, it is how I choose to think about my busyness and go about my tasks that determines my daily experience (and my stress levels).
Do you sometimes find yourself complaining about how busy you are as though you had no part in the hectic schedule you've created for yourself? Or perhaps your sense of identity derives from how busy you are and you don't know how to change this.
As with everything, it is all a matter of choice. Your choice! Ultimately you decide how busy you want to be, which mountain you will climb, and you choose every day whether to enjoy the journey. But if you're so busy racing about and being all things to all people and preoccupied with 'what next?' that you aren't enjoying your life, ask yourself "What is the purpose of all this? Why am I doing all this? What is it all for anyway?"
Following are some practical suggestions for how you can be more effective in your busyness, without the stress. By applying these ideas to your life it is my intention that you will be able to savor your journey, regardless of how far you still have to climb.
Avoid Over-Committing and Learn to Say NO
Are there are commitments and responsibilities that you resent and often find yourself complaining about (either silently or openly)? There are times in our lives where we want to take on more responsibilities and get involved in more activities (a fundraising committee, sports ...). Sometimes, though, our circumstances change but we fail to adjust our commitments and wind up spreading ourselves too thin.
If in your attempt to be all things to all people you find yourself stressed out, exhausted and unable to properly meet all your commitments, ask yourself who are you really serving? When you over-commit your time and energy you are neither serving the person you are trying to help, your family (who get the tired grumpy you) nor yourself.
To learn to say no without the guilt, you must honestly assess the price you are paying in over-committing yourself.
Outsource, Delegate, Automate
What are doing that is taking up your time (and keeping you so busy) that add little or no real value? What can you outsource or delegate? What can be automated that isn't? If you have a lot on your plate that means that there are a lot of requests being made of you. If a lot of requests are being made of you, you need to start making requests of others (kids included!). Are you? You're not doing your kids any favors by not giving them responsibilities and chores.
Did you know that disorganized people spend up to 30% of their time looking for things? If you are busy but continually wasting time searching for car keys, the file you need for your next meeting, or your child's soccer shoes, then spend some time getting organized. The return on your investment in terms of time saved and stress spared will be well worth your effort.
Make Sure Others Value Your Time
Does the failure of others to keep their commitments to you add stress to your life and waste your time? Ensure people know that you expect them to honor their commitments and value your time. If someone has agreed to do something for you and hasn't fulfilled on their promise, don't ignore it. Follow up on it with them. This extends also to those people who are always turning up late for meetings and appointments, wasting your time in the process. Graciously point out that you feel they are not respecting your time, which you value very highly, and ask them to be punctual in the future.
Eliminate Energy Draining 'Tolerations'
In life you will get what you tolerate. This refers to those (often small) things you often don't do anything about because, on their own, they don't seem significant enough to bother with. Yet they all add up to undermine the quality of your day. As W. Somerset Maugham says, "It's a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the best you often get it."
If there is things in your life that drain your energy or unnecessarily add to your busyness - an inefficient business tool, a computer that keeps freezing up, an unreliable service provider, a problematic client or even those shoes that give you blisters - don't just complain about it, do something about it!!! As a general rule in life, you will get whatever you're prepared to put up with (and then some!).
Where have you set the bar for yourself?
Give Yourself "Time Out" From Your Busyness
Martin Luther King said that he'd never have accomplished what he did if he didn't spend three hours a day in prayer. No, that was not a typo… three HOURS a day!!! At times it is important to give yourself permission NOT to be busy. Only by taking regular "down time" to nourish and center yourself to can you be really effective and efficient with your "up time".
So whatever your excuse for not taking time out for yourself - to exercise, to reflect, to plan, to read a book or soak in a bath, to get down on the floor and play with your kids, to meditate or to journal, or to pray, don't tell me it's because you are too busy. Hogwash. The laundry can wait!
What a shame it would be to reach your destination (and in record time) - to stand on the summit of that prized mountain - but to have missed out on the spectacular views along the way and all the richness your life has to offer you right now…. this day… this minute!
Really think about that... what richness could your busyness be depriving you of? Dr. Dwayne W. Dyer said, "True nobility is not about being better than anybody else, but about being better than you used to be."
I'm not suggesting you stop being busy. Just ensure you are leading a life that is rich in purposeful activity. Take time out every now and again to ensure that what you are busily engaged in is taking you where you really want to go and that in the midst of your busyness you are moving closer toward - rather than further away from - all that fills your heart and enriches your life.