Being Busy Isn’t Necessarily Being Smart

It seems our culture has set a high value on overwork and stress. Is this the new operating norm in our world? The answer is an emphatic no.

busyEvery day I talk to people who say something similar to this: “I am so busy. I work hard all day, then I rush home, grab something to eat, and take my kids to three separate school or sporting events. By the time I get home I am bushed, but still have a bit of work to do. Weekends are more of the same. I feel as though I am on a treadmill.” Or better yet, when you see someone to say hello, you ask, “How are you?” and their reply is, “You won’t believe how busy I am with work, plus extra busy at home. I hardly have time to breathe!” They wear busy like it’s some kind of Red Badge of Courage.

It seems our culture has set a high value on overwork and stress. Is this the new operating norm in our world? The answer is an emphatic no.

When I coach executives we talk about this issue frequently. Individuals who “feel” too busy usually have not set any priorities, nor do they have a clear vision for who they want to be or how they want to show up. In the absence of a clear list of priorities, it is virtually impossible for anyone to decide between competing opportunities.

“Establish a gratitude perspective versus a busy perspective.”

Here is a personal example. We have three sons. Our youngest son made the traveling soccer team. One priority in our family was that our kids had to attend church with us every week. Unfortunately, the traveling soccer team played tournaments most Sunday mornings. We told our son that we would deliver him to the soccer matches immediately after our church’s early service. At most he would miss part of the first half of the first game. Our son was OK with the decision, but he was not invited to participate as a team member for the next season. This was not a difficult choice for our family. From the beginning with all of our kids, we stressed that our priority was attending worship as a family. We had established our priorities and who we wanted to be as a family.

Here is a quick list of other ways you can slow down to speed up:

  1. Don’t sleep with your phone and set boundaries for taking work calls. Some of the most relaxed people I work with leave their phone in the car when they arrive home. Apple Inc. shuts down work emails for employees after hours. Everyone needs a break.
  2. Have a personal or family vision. Are you setting the right culture and modeling the right behaviors for yourself and your family?
  3. Get enough sleep. Everyone can operate with 5-6 hours of sleep. I promise you a lack of sleep is unhealthy and only adds to stress.
  4. Take your vacation time – all of it.  U.S. workers take less time away from work than any other country.
  5. Change your mind set. Establish a gratitude perspective versus a busy perspective. It will change your life.

Ultimately the choice is yours. You decide where and how you spend your time and how you show up. Next time someone asks you how you are, you might consider answering, “I am grateful for everything in my life.”


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