The Illusion of Busyness

Honey Bee Swarm

Americans are busy.

Or at least they like to say that they are.

As an entrepreneur and college ministry director, I’m around a lot of “busy” people. While some people are legitimately busy, many people are operating under an illusion of busyness. We think we are a lot busier than we really are. Rather than focus on one assignment at a time in order to systematically knock them out, we try to multitask instead which often obliterates our productivity. Due to poor time management skills (and the constant temptation offered by email, social media, and cell phones), tasks that should take one hour to complete consume two, three, even four hours instead. Add to this the way our culture subconsciously equates a person’s “busyness level” with his/her value and success, and it’s no wonder people talk/brag/complain about how busy they are all the time

How can we shatter this illusion of busyness? Here are three pointers: 

  • Calculate your “return on time”
    Since time is your most precious resource, it’s valuable to know how you are spending it. The best way to do this is to consider your priorities. In a previous post, I suggested some ways to discover and manage your priorities in order to maximize your “return on time.” Implementing these exercises will reduce the amount of time wasted each day and help to streamline productivity.
  • Work smarter not harder
    Just because you’re putting in a ridiculous amount of hours working on a project with little to no sleep doesn’t mean you’re actually accomplishing anything (in fact, you may be doing more harm than good). Instead, think strategically about how you work. When are you most productive? What gets your creative juices flowing? Are you a monotasker or a multitasker? Can changing the kind of music you listen to at work make a difference? By developing a plan, you can be much more efficient and prevent diminishing returns. [For more on working smarter, check out these TED talks]
  • Recognize what gives you value
    A lot of people view their busyness as a badge of honor. Entrepreneurs especially are notorious for the “if you sleep more than 5 hours a night and have a social life, you aren’t the real deal” mindset. If you are logging ridiculous hours, making yourself miserable, and depriving yourself of sleep just so you can brag about it, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. While it is important for us to work hard and produce quality work, being busy is not a reflection of your value and success. By removing the unnecessary busyness from your life, you can pursue the things that really matter: faith, family, and friends.

The next time that someone asks how you are doing, think twice before answering “I’m busy/buried/slammed.” Often that busyness is just an illusion. Make an effort to eliminate the busywork in your daily life so you can have more time and energy to devote to the things you enjoy. Don’t be defined by your busyness.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

More great blog posts on busyness:
“I Have All the Time I Need” by Tim Challies
“Four Ways to Win the Battle Against Busyness” by J.D. Greear
“Why You Need to Stop Bragging About How Busy You Are” on FastCompany

[image credit: Umberto Salvagnin on Flickr]

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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

One Response to The Illusion of Busyness

  1. Pingback: Distortions of Work | Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry

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