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We all complain about being busy, and yet we keeping over-scheduling ourselves. Some of this owes to modern work culture.
It also has to do with the belief we achieve more if we commit to more. Take this account in Self of Lauren McGoodwin, a full-time recruiter and Master’s in Communications student living in Los Angeles:
Those rare times she actually allowed herself to think about it, she acknowledged that she got a charge out of packing her calendar, loading up her to-do list and getting it all done. The long list could be a source of anxiety, and sometimes she drove herself to exhaustion. But the thought of the alternative—a list with little or nothing on it? That just felt wrong.
While there is some evidence in research from Columbia University that busy people are productive because they “perceive that they are using their time effectively,” busy-ness often points to confusion about priorities.
According to the Journal of European Psychology Students, there are a few key differences between being busy versus being productive:
- Having “poorly specified” versus “clearly specified” goals
- “Having multiple priorities, engaging in multitasking” versus “having clear priorities, focusing on single tasks”
- “Saying ‘yes’ to most things (impulsive ‘yes’) versus “saying ‘no’ to many things (thoughtful ‘yes’)
- “Immediately responding to any given task” versus “scheduling tasks”
Instead: Try these techniques to avoid the busyness trap.
There are different ways to avoid the “busyness trap.” Here are a few:
Focus on just doing three important things each day, suggests entrepreneur Dan Sullivan.
Have a one-hour electronic blackout period, recommends Thomas J. DeLong, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.
Recognise your “bias for action” — common among entrepreneurs — and realise you do not always need to do something, says business psychologist Tony Crabbe.
Say no to things that do not advance your goals.
Have a morning routine where you take time to reflect on how you will organise the day to fulfil some of your values.