Our society puts “busy” on a pedestal. It’s a badge of honour, and it’s easy to see why. When you’re freelance, if you’re busy it means you’re making money. When you’re working in a large organisation, being busy means you’re trusted or important. When you’re in a small organisation, being busy means you’re growing. Busy is good, right?
Busy can be fun. It can be addictive. It can lead to good things. But it’s not the same as being productive. The old saying is “if you want something done, ask a busy person”, but I’d add that it you want something done efficiently or with quality, then ask someone who is calm, focused and is good at saying “no”.
So let’s stop being busy. And let’s stop the glorification of busy, too. We need recognise what it really is — an inability to relax, an addiction to flattery or excitement, and an inability to make choices that make space for what matters.
Choosing to slow down, but “in two weeks”, or “when this thing is done”, or “when that thing changes” is for the birds. These are always crutches to hold onto, so that you keep feeding your busyness cravings. But if you’re ready to slow down THIS Week — now! — then here are ten good reasons that I hope tug on your psyche harder than a new email notification or a sense of FOMO…
- When you’re busy, you don’t see the bigger picture. That means that you’re missing opportunities or leaving easy wins on the table.
- When you’re busy, you’re less available for the people you love.
- It’s hard to be spontaneous when you’re busy.
- Being busy is the biggest cause of accidental unkindness.
- Being busy doesn’t make you more productive. In fact it’s the opposite. The law of diminishing returns in knowledge work kicks in closer to 30 than 40 hours. Putting in more hours generally just means a lower average hourly return for your time. You’re far better off aiming for a well-rested and well-focused 30 hours than a frazzled 40+.
- Your loved ones will be happier if you’re less busy. Even more importantly, so will you.
- The Pareto Principle. In work just as in life, the 80/20 rule means you’re far better offer finding and focusing on the 20% of stuff that adds loads of value, than filling your time with stuff that might feel satisfying but doesn’t matter that much.
- Being busy for long periods is unsustainable. There’s a reason my company, Think Productive, has been working a four day week for the past decade, and pandemics aside, we’ve grown and innovated in every single one of those years.
- Busyness is bad for your health, both physically and mentally. When you’re less busy, you have less of the stress hormone cortisol, which means you’re more relaxed, you digest your food more effectively and you’re less prone to illness, burnout and worse.
- You don’t need to worry so much. You do enough. You are enough.
So let’s ditch the busy this week in favour of some Ninja-level Zen-like Calm.
If you want to be less stressed and fall back in love with what you do, my book can help.
If you want some help lowering the busyness and stress levels of your team, then give Think Productive a call.