Busy. Time-starved. Pressured. Overworked. Overscheduled. Where do you fall under?
You feel like there’s never enough time in your day.
But the thing is, our amount of time hasn’t changed. We still have the same 24 hours each day, right?
In fact, today’s technology has helped us shave off some of the day’s necessities and chores, so how come in this modern age, we still feel as if there’s never any time left?
What’s really going on underneath “I’m too busy”? Why are we actually busier than ever? Are we really busy or do we just feel like we are?
“I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn't find the time to do it.” -Todd Stocker
If I’m not busy, then I’m doing something wrong… right? Right?
The suits. The meetings. The glamour of an entrepreneur working 80 hours a week. The dream of many. Errr... why?
In the adult world, being busy equates to being important. But is this really the case? What is underneath all the fuzz and the drama?
Let me hand out a thesis about busyness…
Being busy is not a question of time management, but a question of priority management.
We tell ourselves that we are busy because it’s a lot easier to admit what our priorities really are.
Just like many, I used to be too busy to do a lot of things. I didn’t attend a good friend’s wedding, I drifted away from important childhood friendships, I overlooked opportunities to learn from some of the best mentors, and I missed too many phone calls with my parents.
But it didn’t have to be that way.
Time is elastic. And we make time for things that we prioritize. If it’s not on your calendar, then you’re not busy for it - it’s just not in your priorities.
And this hurts us.
Can you really tell your kid that you prioritize your promotion more than her piano recital?
Can you really tell your parents that you’d rather get paid for overtime work than have dinner with them?
Can you really tell yourself that getting your own car as soon as possible is more important than your mental health?
We can find and make time. But we will only do it for things that are important to us.
The question is which one’s more important? Which one deserves to be on your calendar today?
Here lies the problem of our modern society...
We don’t even take time to slow down and ask these important questions.
“Who would I be if I weren’t busy? What would be left of my life and me after I removed excess stuff from my home and allowed my day to have unscheduled open spaces?” - Lisa J. Shultz
Everything’s trying to steal our attention. In your long list of things to do, you get a notification that reminds you of another important deliverable. And in the middle of doing that, you get another email, and another call, and another ding!.
We get too busy because everything is so important and everything is so urgent that we put aside those that really matter.
What do we do? And is there really a template answer for these?
Well, no. There isn’t.
We all have different reasons for being busy because we all come from different environments, carry different beliefs, and prioritize different values. This means that we will be scheduling our days differently as well.
Before we talk about these differences, here are common reasons why it’s so easy to get busy in the modern world. Depending on your own unique experiences, a couple of these reasons may resonate with you more than others.
“I’m busy because I have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.”
“I’m busy because not being busy is frowned upon in this society.”
“I’m busy because if I’m not, I don’t feel productive. And if I don’t feel productive, I don’t feel good.”
“I’m busy because I want to feel important and valued.”
“I’m busy because I don’t want to miss out. I need to update my social media feeds with the highlights of my busy life.”
“I’m busy because I need to secure my job by showing my company that I am productive and loyal.”
“I’m busy because the notifications never stop.”
“I’m busy because I want to keep my mind off something.”
“I’m busy so that I won’t have to socialize.”
“I’m busy because that means I’m working hard for my dreams.”
“I’m busy because if not, other people will take my time.”
Which one rings most true? And why? Where did this come from?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being busy. But if you’re being busy with things that cause daily internal conflicts or if you feel a sense of burn out and uneasiness with your busyness, then maybe, you’re being busy on the wrong things.
How do you switch from being busy with the wrong things to being busy with the right things? And how would you know what those right things are?
Where exactly is your True North?
When there’s internal conflict with anything we’re doing, then it has a lot to do with how our actions are reflecting our personal values.
Everyday, we make decisions.
Your alarm rings in the morning and you gotta make a decision. Will I demand for another five minutes for the next full hour or will I get up and start my day?
The same kind of war happens in different scenarios. Should I skip gym today? Can I turn this into a cheat day? If I can squeeze in some time to jog right after work, one slice won’t matter much, right?
Some decisions are harder to make compared to others. Like your boss calling in for work on a Sunday when you were about to take your wife to a much needed date.
Whatever we’re dealing with, there’s always a strong force behind the answers we inevitably make. If we knew how important our tiny decisions are in relation to our end result, we would want to do it based on personal standards that we must adhere to. These standards or the factors that inevitably dictate the end result of the path we’re taking are our values.
Let’s do a quick and easy exercise.
Step 1: The first thing you have to do is choose 10 values within 2 minutes.
Step 2: Now, out of your chosen values, drop 5.
I know that dropping five values may be a little bit more challenging compared to choosing 10 of them. Here’s a quick guide to help you out.
What’s most important to you?
Your values will tell you a lot about yourself and your non-negotiables. They highlight how you guide your behaviors and actions.
Your values act as a compass. You made this compass. The ingredients you used to build this compass were taken from your personal experiences, your reactions to them, your successes, and your failures. Some of these ingredients, you picked up from people around you. Some, you learned along the way.
Why is it important for you to have a life compass? To have values?
Simple. It does what a compass does - show you your True North. It helps you find your way, especially when you’re lost.
Many events in our life pull us into things that lead us away from who we truly are. Our values help us know what to do in these situations.
Drop 5 values from your chosen 10.
Step 3: Now, you’re left with 5 values. Choose three.
Here’s an example.
My top 3 values include Growth, Freedom, and Fun.
No wonder why placing me inside a cubicle for 9 hours a day would mean death for me. I would easily reject offers - no matter how big - if my values of Growth, Freedom, and Fun would be compromised. But for another person, denying big paychecks would be a bold yet stupid move. The different decisions taken by each individual and the consequent results came from a simple difference in values.
Our values tell us who we will vote for, what kind of work-life we will take, how we spend our money, who we will marry (if we decide to marry), what we will teach our kids, who we will follow online… and, yeah, basically everything.
Making decisions that are out of sync with your values create internal tension and conflict. Our busyness and the way we manage our time must also be aligned with our values, or else you will always suffer from an uneasy feeling of disconnect and incoherence.
Sadly, a lot of people follow values that they don’t really resonate with. We think some of our values are ours, when really, they’re values of people whose approval is very important to us.
This leads to those moments when you feel most lost and confused. Choosing the wrong values or values that do not really adhere to who you really are leads to destructive behavior. So, you gotta make sure that you take time in deciding on your values, not values based on how you want to be perceived, values based on a self-image you want to project, or values that root from other people’s needs.
Intentional busyness guided by your personal values
Your values will dictate how you will manage your time and where you will invest your busyness.
Being busy isn’t inherently bad, but being busy on the wrong things when you know that you want to do something else, well, sucks.
This is where your values come in.
Investing your time in things that come in conflict with your top values will give rise to self-doubt, fears, anxiety, and other issues that will stop you on your tracks.
If, for example, you value Family over Work Success, and your boss demands you to work on a Sunday, then your values will act as the giant neon light sign that you’ve been looking for: “Get a new job.”
Or if you highly value Health over Money, then it’s time to cut down the amount of time you invest on working to get quality sleep.
If you leverage your busyness with your values, you will never feel busy. More than the cliche work-life balance, you have achieved time-value integration and congruence.
If you want to learn more about your personal values and how you’re spending your time based on theme, here are some books you can look into:
Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
The One Thing by Gary Keller
What can be done in 72 hours?
Let’s follow the Rule of 72.
What can you do to practice what you have learned above? Before forgetting them, make sure you set at least one actionable item within 72 hours.
Build your list of Top 3 Personal Values
Check your calendar and ask: “Are these activities aligned with my values?”
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