This is a guest post by David Turnbull.
Being busy is considered the opposite of laziness. It’s not. Laziness is likened to sloth-like activity, performing tasks slowly and begrudgingly. And that’s no different from busy work which fills most our lives. We do things because we’re too lazy not to do them.
Never ending busyness means you are too lazy to:
- Set priorities. When you really know what needs to get done you do it much faster than when you’re mind is scattered and unfocused. Get out a piece of paper and answer this question “What is the #1 task I should get done today?” Write that down and get to work.
- Become effective. Effectiveness is getting important stuff done. I recommend Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” for great practical tips on being effective but you basically need to identify what’s important, set strict deadlines (I’m a fan of e.ggtimer.com personally) and use clearly defined metrics as accountability tools.
- Make touch choices. Saying “Yes” has its advantages in life, but saying “No” is a key aspect in killing busy work. There are always a billion opportunities out there that may tempting to follow up on. Learn to persist with what you’re already doing and turn down everything else. If an opportunity has any staying power it’ll still be available in the future.
- Fill your time with fulfilling activities. Fulfilling activities take time, energy and focus, but by their very nature make life worth living. Busy work protects us from making an effort to experience life. Don’t let it.
- Be idle. Idleness is hard. And I’m not talking about the idleness of sitting on the couch watching TV. Try just sitting and thinking for 30-60 minutes at a time. You’ll most likely fidget, suddenly have the urge to check your email inbox or soon become bored of your own thoughts. That’s a weakness. Practice listening to your own thoughts and enjoying your own company.
- Consider your direction. Where are you going? Whenever you’re working on something think about whether or not the outcome will matter in the overall scheme of things. Is it part of the bigger picture?
- Question yourself. Always be questioning yourself – your motivations, intentions, desires, actions and thoughts. Don’t do things or behave a certain way because it’s the way things have been done in the past. Challenge conventions.
- Setup systems. Systems aren’t exactly dull but they help streamline repetitive processes. Instead of doing the same task 100 times in 100 different ways attempt it 2-3 times with different methods. Which is the most efficient? Stick with that. The added benefit is that this will allow you to…
- Automate or outsource repetitive (but necessary) tasks. After eliminating the unnecessary there may be tasks that you still have to do that you find dull and repetitive. Either find software to automate the process, use a program such as Automator to create macros or outsource the work using a site such as eLance or AskSunday for personal tasks.
- Disconnect. I know how difficult it is to disconnect. The internet is addictive, a wonderland of distraction and false importance. Pull out the ethernet cable or disable wireless and get off the computer. Work creates itself if you let it.
- Improve yourself. You’re not perfect and you never will be. But that doesn’t matter! What does matter is putting zero effort into becoming a better you because you’re apparently swamped with so-called “urgent” tasks. Continue learning and evolving.
- Appreciate what you have. We work more because we believe we’ll get more in return. And to an extent that is true. But the problem is, where does “more” end? Just stop and realise what you have. Don’t work out of attachment to acquisition.
- Enjoy what you have. It’s not just a matter of appreciating it. Buy a new fancy tennis racquet recently? Go play some tennis. Traveled into the future and bought a copy of Modern Warfare 2? Pop that bad boy into your 360 and rack up some achievements. You have more than you probably even realise. Enjoy it.
- Make precautions. Fear keeps us busy. Fear of losing what we have. Fear of not reaching our goals. Fear of failure. Ask yourself “how can I prepare for the worst case scenario?” And then do that.
- Track yourself. Install RescueTime on your computer and begin to see how you’re actually spending your time. It was quite a shock for myself to see hours and hours wasted on irrelevant web browsing in a single day.
- Set expectations. Do you interact with customers or an audience of any sort? The happiness of others is important but don’t let their inefficiencies hurt your lifestyle. It’s lazy (and unsustainable) to reply to everyone and everything instantly. Set reasonable expectations before issues crop up.
- Solve problems. Busyness lets us procrastinate, avoiding genuine problems that need solving. Learn how to solve problems.
David Turnbull is a writer who writes about peace of mind, simplicity and geekery at his blog, Adventures of a Barefoot Geek.