Are You Too Busy?

Unlike personal finance (because some people make more money) or career development (some people are in a high-demand field), time management is more egalitarian; we all have the same number of hours in a day. But you wouldn’t really know it by the way we talk about it.

“Busyness” has become kind of a socially acceptable complaint that is laced with positivity. It is often used as an excuse to explain why something didn’t get done; it can be used to reason why time was spent on a different activity instead; it is often used to give our jobs more importance; and it can even be a justification to give our life more meaning.

But few of us are actually so busy that it causes our productivity to suffer. In a way, there is no such thing as being too busy. It’s just a matter of prioritization, creating an interesting paradox in time management; the busier you are, the more productive you become. When you constantly have your plate full, you are able to batch work and capitalize on momentum.

The next time you feel too busy, try the following:

  • Wake up earlier and do the hardest task first. This is your best chance to get it done quickly and well. Knock it out and it will no longer occupy any more of your mental energy that day. This frees up your day for everything and anything else.
  • Establish a schedule or routine. Rather than switching from task to task, schedule blocks of time to work on certain activities. Follow this with some degree of regularity over time, and you will get much better at it and, in turn, more productive.
  • Put things off until you can batch them. Lump similar tasks together (which helps you get into a focus zone). For example, tend to your email two or three times a day rather than being “always on,” collect your talking points before meeting with your boss so you can have less meetings together, or wait to go to the grocery store until after you have accumulated a list of items to buy.
  • Get in the zone of what you are doing. This allows thoughts of the rest of your day, last week, and other things you “should” be doing to dissipate. One way to do this is to surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing you are doing. If you are working quietly, do it in a university library. If you are running, hit a popular running path.
  • Allow something to drop off your plate. Most likely, it will not be the end of the world. And if it allows you to work on something more meaningful or contributes to better work/life balance or allows you to focus on another activity without rushing, it might be a switch well made.
  • But don’t let that something be your workout. Keeping active most days of the week can lower your stress levels and help you feel more energized.

Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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  • Carey

    Good post, thanks. “Busyness” has definitely become a socially acceptable complaint that is laced with positivity as you point out. I would add that it also has become an acceptable response to really just about every situation. Recent literature and posts about the busyness paradox remind me of a social scientist perspective on distinction, or what they call the uniqueness paradox. Trying to distinguish themselves from other settings, what happens is that they are creating a uniqueness that they are different but in fact, are not unique. Similar to being “sooo busy.” The uniqueness paradox like the busyness paradox has a way of mystifying all things, and prevents many of us from asking questions when someone tells us they are so busy, thereby immediately ending the conversation. Your suggestions are useful. Unless you are working double shifts in the ICU, saying you are too busy is a destructive response, however, for trying to have a meaningful relationship in the workplace, in the school, or in the community. We need to develop more useful responses for producing interactions of value, rather than merely waste by falling into this social trap.
    http://goo.gl/savue

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