This is a tough topic for me.
I am one to feel guilty if I'm not doing something. I have a habit of finding things to keep busy.
Don't confuse being busy for being productive
It's easy to feel productive when you're knocking a lot of things off your to-do list, but the quality of your to-do list is a better indicator of productivity.
One of the most common things I hear when I ask people how things are going is, “I’ve been really busy." I know I've said it many times.
What "I've been really busy" translates to is I'm not staying on top of my projects, I say yes to everything that comes my way and I have no way to accomplish all of them, I'm unorganized at home, so it takes me forever to get anything done.
Or often, the root of that response is that you aren't accomplishing the things you want to. And you subconsciously know that by saying you're busy, the person you're talking to will be able to sympathize. You're off the hook of feeling like its you're responsibility to make strides towards your big goals and dreams.
Stop wearing busy as a badge of honor
"I've been really busy" is a badge. It feels like we're saying "I'm important. I'm not lazy."
Funny enough, being busy is often a result of being lazy. That has certainly been the case in my life.
How to tell if you're too busy
- If you never feel like you can make time for friends and family (or feel guilty when you do)
- If you're always doing things, but never getting closer to your goals
- If you don't have intentional, guilt free time to relax and play
Being busy is a habit - here are some steps to start breaking it
Write down your goals
What do you want to accomplish in your life? Or if that's too lofty, what about this year?
Write down a plan for those goals
Break down your goal into monthly milestones. And at the beginning of each month, write down weekly goals. And at the beginning of each week, write down the daily tasks. This is a plan. You can take action on a plan. You can't take action on a goal.
Schedule your life
In the weekly schedule you built for your goal/action plan, add things from your work/life. Your dreams and goals can't exist outside your home and work schedules, so make sure you are accounting for everything that's going on.
Without some semblance of organization, you will have a harder time getting to those important tasks. You'll be spending time looking for things and files and documents.
Touch things once
This is huge. If you can take action on your inbox, mail, bills, and invites the first time you see them, you will free up more time and mental energy than you expect.
Don't tell people "I've been busy", tell them about...
- the cool projects your working on
- the problems you're solving
- how writing a weekly schedule has helped you say no to projects you would never have time for anyway, but probably would have said yes too before
- how life is an exciting adventure and you have promoted yourself to the captain of your ship