Beating the Busy Mindset

October 8, 2013

All of the work my team and I have put in over the last five months to systemize the business and get better processes in place is paying off. I have fewer big tasks on my plate each day. I’m spending less time on work that feels urgent and more time executing projects that really count.

Yet I still feel busy. I still feel like I’m juggling a lot of pieces, and I still feel distracted each day by lots of little tasks that prevent me from focusing on the big picture.

When I told my business coach this during our last session, he said something I’ve been thinking about ever since: that I need to get out of the habit of being busy. (Click to tweet this.)

Image: Are you in the habit of being busy?

Are you in the habit of being busy?

He’s right. I’ve worked so hard over the last two years to grow the client side of Socialexis, gain momentum on and launch The Write Life, that paddling as fast as I can has become a habit. And while I absolutely love my work, I don’t love that feeling busy has become my normal.

When busy becomes normal

Now is the perfect time to change this. And not just because now is always better than later. By putting effective systems and processes in place, we’ve created an opening for me to escape the land of busy. That hole in the fence is right in front of me.

Yet, like any habit, feeling and acting busy isn’t easy to break. To do that, we have to make a conscious choice to avoid busyness, to replace it with something better.

From a practical standpoint, this means saying “no” more often so you can focus on projects that matter. It means letting go of the small things to make big things happen.

But the more important piece here is a change in mindset. Because the truth is, there will always be more you can do for your business, your career, your life. Especially if you’re a go-getter, you will never arrive at a place where everything is done.

This is difficult for me to come to terms with. I like my email inbox empty, my tasks checked off. I want all the ideas on my whiteboard to be executed, and executed well. When things are unfinished, I feel stressed out, and I work — busily — to complete them.

But life will always be a work in progress. We must choose our priorities, remembering that most of our obligations are actually choices. And when we do, when we realize we can’t do everything and decide instead to do a few things well, busyness will no longer get the front seat. Your true priorities will be up front instead, right where they belong.

Are you in the habit of being busy? What could you do to beat that mindset?

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    12 Replies to “Beating the Busy Mindset”

    • Alexis, this was literally a note that I wrote to myself in a meeting today. I have to free up more space to focus on what’s really important. I spent most of my days finishing “busy” tasks. Thank you for posting this!

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    • Caroline says:

      I needed this today. Thanks, Alexis! Great post.

    • I really appreciate this point because I’m often thinking and writing about the ineffectiveness of time management- most of us don’t need to manage our time but rather manage how we’re filling our time. By that I mean, why are you doing the things you’re doing? Are all those things on your to-do list really important to you? If not, why are you doing them?

      It’s easy to fill our days with tasks that aren’t important. We hustle and bustle and deal with so-called emergencies and respond to inquiries and do so much more than is necessary. Meanwhile, the things that are really important to us often get put last on our task list.

      At least that’s how it often works for me! So I have to ask myself- why am I doing this? Is this important to me? Is this keeping me from doing something more important? And, often most importantly, how can I take care of myself in this moment? Because if I’m not in good physical, mental, and emotional health, well then, I’m not going to make very much progress on any of my goals.

      Thanks for the thoughtful post!


    • \”Most of our obligations are actually choices.\” So true, and so beautifully said. I\’ve been thinking about that this week and trying to change my mindset from dreading some of my work to delighting in it because I chose it and am able to do it. Your line is pithy and memorable. Thanks Lexi.

    • Vanessa says:

      Someone asked me what I do for a living.For a moment I thought, and then said, “I’m a researcher of life.”And I was pleased with the answer, because to work is to give an expression of love. And if you can not work with love, better leave that job. It is better to sit at the gates of the Temple and receive money from those who work with joy.

    • Mitchell says:

      I am a teacher, and when I am not working directly with the students, there is always that urge to keep working. Yes, the work that I do is important (students need feedback, things need grading, questions need to be answered, lessons need to be planned, etc.), but not everything has to be done THAT second. There are times when I forget this, and that\’s when I feel the most stress. When I learn to say \”no\” in a respectful manner and focus on what really matters, life slows down and is more enjoyable for me.@Chrysta, you have a very important point. I did not think of this angle before I read your comment. My next step, then, is to find more effective strategies to manage my time rather than \”staying busy\”.Thank you for the article!

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