Several years ago, I stopped answering the question “How are you?” with what had sadly become my standard reply,
“I’m great! Just SO busy.”
I was, of course, busy. Who isn’t?
We live in a culture that’s fully committed to making us feel like if we’re not packing every second of the day with something, then we’re just not doing it right. Not only are we obsessed with activity, we’re passing this pattern on to our children with every night we spend telling them, “Sorry honey, we don’t have time to ____ if we want to get to ___ on time.”
The proper decision metric for whether or not to say yes to the next thing is actually not “is there room in my calendar for this?” It’s certainly one, but it’s not enough.
How often do we simply check our phones and if we are not already booked elsewhere, automatically say yes?
Can you predict what happens when we do that? We spend another day breathlessly running from one thing to the next, often arriving late, painfully anxious that we’re not doing anything particularly well.
We’re prioritizing a pace of living over a quality of life. We’re filling our calendars, but not our hearts.
We’re drowning in a flood of our own doing.
But then when we have a chance to do something really amazing – the chance to fulfill a dream we’ve held for a long time – or to say yes to something truly worthy of our time and attention- we hide behind the veil of busyness we’ve created.
“Oh I just couldn’t possibly do THAT. I’m way too busy.”
If we have something important calling to us, we don’t need more time.
We need more courage.
We need the chance to prove to ourselves that the tradeoffs that come with pursuing a worthy goal are worth it. Because there are tradeoffs. But if we choose those tradeoffs instead of being surprised by them, we can protect what matters most to us.
This year, I’m serious about using work time primarily for these four things:
- Conversations (with my clients, my collaborators, my mentors)
- Teaching (videos, keynotes, a book (!))
- Planning (new programs, marketing, budgeting)
- Connecting (fellow entrepreneurs, collaboration opportunities, prospective clients)
I protect time for these daily practices that energize and sustain me:
- Exercise (30-60 minutes a day of yoga, spinning, running, or time in our home gym)
- Sleep (7-8 hours nearly every night)
- Quiet time with my Journaling Bible
- Conversations (with my husband, my three children, my parents, my friends)
- A family dinner
- Reading something uplifting or educational (usually to wind down before bed)
And I have ongoing responsibilities to attend to just like you:
- Grocery shopping & other errands
- Laundry and housekeeping
- Packing lunches and backpacks
- Driving kids to practices and cheering from the audience or sidelines
- Checking homework
- Bedtime snacks, baths, and stories
So to fit all that in, something has to give. I have to really check myself on how much time I spend on things like:
- Reading and answering email
- Mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds
- Bouncing between multiple tasks without finishing one (colossal time drain)
- Watching TV or reading magazines (I watch 1-2 shows a week.)
- Shopping (“I’ll just pop into Target” can so easily turn into an hour I don’t have)
- Tidying up my house (I could spend all day doing this if I’m not careful)
It takes commitment to protect the time and energy we need to move the needle on our most important contributions and to build into our most treasured relationships. Those people you admire – the ones who make you wonder where they find the time to do what they do – this is how they do it.
It takes courage to say no to things when everyone else is saying yes. It takes patience to invest in activities that have a long term payoff but sometimes little short term reward. And it takes persistence to stay focused when the world is hurling distractions at you by the millisecond.
But it’s possible.
That worthy thing you’re too busy to do? What would happen if you designed your life around it?
Want to chat more? I’d love that. Set up some time to chat with a member of my Brilliant Balance team here.
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Based on a post originally published on January 13, 2016