If you want to be more productive, there are plenty of readings and recommendations available to you. Gurus are everywhere who will help you figure out how to fit more tasks into less time. But busy isn’t best and the hustle and hurry of doing so much detracts from happiness and fulfillment.
It’s hard to do less—and this is exacerbated by a social focus on doing more. There is an unfortunate perceived status if you’re busy. Because being busy surely means you’re a valuable person who is in demand—or not. Many people legitimately have a lot to accomplish. Work, school, friends, family, and volunteer work all make demands on calendars, causing a perpetual feeling of time poverty.
But what if you could make a shift toward a more realistic level of expectation, and a more reasonable pace of life? Consider taking a 30-day challenge to avoid saying you’re busy. Before you dismiss the idea as impossible or insignificant, know how impactful it could be. Shifting to a less busy approach could add to your satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment—and to that of those around you.
Language Shapes Reality
The way you talk about your experiences and your challenges shapes how you think about them. And in addition, what you focus on tends to become magnified in your thoughts and feelings. The saying really is true, “Change your thinking, change your life,” and a primary way to change your thinking is to change how you talk about things. “Linguistic determinism,” the scientific concept which means that how people talk about things shapes reality. The bottom line: Language has power.
Ways to Put “Busy” Aside
It’s common for conversations or meetings to start with, “How are you?” and the most typical reply is “I’m so busy.” But this response is limiting and will lock you into the hustle you want to escape.
Sometimes, people say they’re busy because they feel the need to measure up or demonstrate they are important. But by attempting to prove your value, you’re undermining your influence. For your credibility and reputation, your actions are more important than your words. People will believe what you do, more than what you say.
Be confident about yourself and the unique value you deliver. And remind yourself your worth isn’t based on time invested, but in the impact you have. Rather than talking about how busy you are, talk about the substance of your work, the project you’re enthusiastic about or the new things you’re learning through your job or your volunteer efforts.
Avoid Framing Busy as Bad
We all have an instinct to matter, and one of the worst things people can hear is they are unnecessary. But too often, when we talk about being busy, we frame it as a bad thing fraught with distress and overwhelm. While this can be reality, consider times when you might be emphasizing the negative unnecessarily.
Change your thinking by reminding yourself about how your tasks are part of a full life and the opportunity to express your talents and skills and contribute to others. Think of your responsibilities as part of a life in which you are vital and have an important role to play with your coworkers, your family, your friends and your community. Instead of reporting on your busy-ness, talk about how much you’re enjoying something in your life, or how full things are.
Avoid Getting Lost in the Minutia
Another way to reduce the hustle mindset is to keep focused on the bigger picture. The minutia of tasks can contribute to a feeling of being out of control or lost in the petty or the insignificant. But your minor obligations ladder up to major contributions.
Slogging through data will help you draw conclusions and reach insights which will help your company innovate for customers. Editing the communication for the umpteenth time will help ensure you send the exactly-right message to influence recipients. And purchasing the glitter and glue will ensure the decorating process for the school play will give children a sense of importance and impact on their audience. Rather than saying how busy you are, talk about the bigger picture efforts you’re a part of.
Avoid Limitless Thinking
While believing you can do anything can be inspirational for your overall identity and how you develop as a person, it can get in the way of sanity as you manage your calendar day-to-day. The alternative is to embrace your limits. You can’t possibly perform brilliantly in everything which interests you, or take a trip to every amazing destination. This is the reality of being a human with only 24 hours in every day.
On the other hand, when you embrace your limits, you are liberated to make optimal choices about how you spend your time—if you can’t do it all, you must be selective about what you choose to do. You can commit fully and revel in the activities which matter most. Rather than running on the hamster wheel trying to do everything, you can move at your best pace to do the things which have the most meaning for you and the people you care about.
When someone asks how you are, consider sharing your enthusiasm about your efforts or sharing the ways your passion is keeping you engaged. People always have time for their priorities, and this can be your focus instead of your time scarcity.
Your Influence Is Significant
Perhaps the biggest reason to reduce your focus on your busy-ness is the influence you have on others. The most significant way people learn is through watching, listening to and experiencing others, so your impact on those around you is greater than you think.
When you emphasize hustle as the way you value yourself or others, you inadvertently contribute to a culture where busy is best. But by changing your own thinking and language, you have a powerful effect toward a community where contribution matters most and value is about substance, rather than rushing about.
Take the challenge of avoiding saying you’re busy. Try it for 30 days and you’ll start a trend which will be good for you, and good for the community as a whole.