Busy street

5 tips on how to not be so busy

I recently read an interesting book ‘Busy: how to thrive in a world of too much’ by Tony Crabbe. Some of the ideas I like from this book that are useful are below:

  • Busy is not a cool brand
  • Importance of giving yourself breaks/setting boundaries
  • Trying to reduce distractions, only looking at emails and social media during certain times in the day.
  • Working in blocks, trying to get into ‘flow’ as much as possible
  • Experimenting, for example, making a decision not to do everything perfectly

Tip 1: Busy is not a cool brand

Whether you like it or not, everyone has a brand, or image that they project to the outside world. I have written about personal branding before and its importance.

When people ask how you are, it’s very easy to say ‘I’m good, just very busy’. It’s not a particularly interesting answer, so it’s good to differentiate yourself from the rest and to say something that’s describes what you do in a more fascinating way. For example, to say ‘I’m well, I’ve got an interesting project in X (or I’m getting to meet loads of interesting people/learn loads of new skills etc).

It’s true, everyone is busy these days, this book that I mention in the introduction gives you lots of strategies about how to enjoy life more and not be caught so much on the ‘busyness treadmill’.

Tip 2: Importance of giving yourself breaks/setting boundaries

Being too busy causes anxiety. Trying to get everything you’ve set yourself done, having an extremely long ‘to do’ list that keeps being added to, are some examples of how this busyness can manifest itself. It can also feel so tiring to be busy all the time.

So making sure you have some breaks in the day is important. One rule that can be helpful is to work for 50 min/1 hour and then to take a 10 minute break and use it to walk around. Stretching your legs and getting away from a computer screen (if that’s the type of work you do), can be advantageous.

Tip 3: Trying to reduce distractions, only looking at emails and social media during certain times in the day

A major part of getting stuff done is to try to eliminate distractions. In Tip 2, I talked about working in 50 min/1 hour blocks. In Tip 4, I talk about getting into ‘flow’ with your work as much as you can.

Make it a rule to only look at emails and social media at set times, certainly not when you are about to start a block of work.

Emails are major distractions and they mean that you flit from one task to another. I recommend looking at emails whilst you have a bit of time before meetings, or in the other ‘cracks’ in the day between one event and another happening, for example if you have 10 minutes before you plan to grab lunch. Then follow tip 4 below.

Tip 4: Working in blocks, trying to get into ‘flow’ as much as possible

Getting the chunkier work out of the way earlier in the day, when you are less tired is really helpful. Trying to get into ‘flow’. I’ve written about flow before, it’s when you really get into a task and start enjoying it, so that time slips by fast and boredom really disappears.

In order for flow to happen, you need to allow yourself a reasonable amount of time. Don’t try to get into flow just 10 minutes before a meeting, do it when you have uninterrupted time.

Avoid distractions as much as possible and turn email and social media notifications off.

Tip 5: Experimenting, for example, making a decision not to do everything perfectly

This tip is especially useful if you are a perfectionist. It is an emphasis on getting things done off the jobs’ list.

If you are perfectionist, you exhaustively seek the best and you are apt to have these feelings about your work:

  • You compare your decision with others
  • You expend time and energy
  • You are unhappier with outcomes

If you take a ‘good enough’ approach

  • You don’t obsess about other options
  • You can move on after a decision
  • You are happier with outcomes.

Other tips I have for helping with not feeling overwhelmed by your workload are:

  • Have only 5 or 6 tasks for the day, out of your long list. You may have a ‘master’ list of say 21 tasks, only refer to that occasionally, or once a day at the most. You can add to these 5 or 6 tasks if you crack through them.
  • ‘Eat that Frog’, i.e. tackle the task that you are least looking forward to at the start of the day, when you feel fresh. You’ll feel so much better once it’s done.

Conclusion

Some of the above tips are my own and some are from the book. The book emphasizes that time management i.e. trying to squeeze yet more in, simply doesn’t work. Prioritisation and saying ‘no’ sometimes is the answer. Busyness is a disease of modern times and taking on self-care and watching our health and wellbeing should be more of a priority. It also emphasises that often ‘less is more’ and questioning yourself as to whether you really want to take on roles in organisations where more and more is expected of employees. Thinking about the culture of work in your organisation is also therefore important.

 

If you wanted to have a chat about career coaching and where your career fits in with your life outside of work, do get in touch. Here you can find my contact details.

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