On Busyness

It seems an article of faith in our more, better, faster culture that being busy is good (busyness is next to godliness?). People practically brag about being overbooked, and how much they have to accomplish, as if this somehow makes them more valuable as people. I don’t think it makes them more valuable, and I’m really not so sure busyness is good.This comes from my personal experience. I have been really busy lately, not just with clients and writing this blog, sending out my newsletter and doing my radio show, which you all see, but also starting a new online business with a partner, and managing another small business I own. I feel kind of guilty all the time, because I’m not 100% on top of everything, and I can’t deliver everything to everyone simultaneously. And then there are all the things I want to do, but don’t have to do — enjoy the earth, hang out with friends, help some people I believe in with their projects. A fair percentage of my available attention units are simply taken up with constantly re-evaluating and shifting priorities.

Using those attention units to figure out what to do next precludes using them to reflect, to learn from what just happened. How do you tease out all the lessons from a situation if you don’t have time to think about it? If you’re making a stew, and it tastes flat, and you gulp it down, all you notice is that it’s not too good. It takes time and attention to actually notice what you’re eating, to figure out that it needs more salt, and more of some herb, and less fat, perhaps. Or maybe you should have added the herbs as you sauteed the meat, rather than just during the simmering. But if you’re so busy that you have to chomp on it while you’re driving to your next appointment, you’ll never notice. You won’t improve your cooking, and you’ll continue to make the same mistakes.

How do you get unbusy? Obviously, I’m no expert, since I’m having this predicament at the moment myself. Instead, here is Brig. General Rhonda Cornum, as quoted in Flourish, by Martin Seligman:

“Discard C.”

How do you know what is an A, a B or a C?

Think of it this way — there are two dimensions: importance and urgency.

Important    Not Important
Urgent             |       A        |            B?        |
Not Urgent      |        B       |           C           |

A – Urgent and Important – There’s a humongous fire in the neighborhood. Drop everything, pack up and get ready to evacuate NOW. (This one actually happened.)

B – Important but not Urgent – It’s May in CA, where it won’t rain till next October or November, and the house needs a new roof. Finding contractors, getting bids, calling all the references. selecting the roofer and scheduling the work all need to happen. They can be put on my to do list, and/or my calendar, and worked in with other things.

B – Urgent but Not Important – For me, this is the hard one. The cat is whining to be fed again. (I just fed him 3 hours ago.) He thinks it’s urgent. I know he’s not starving. But if I put it off too long, he may express his displeasure in ways I find atrocious — and which are both urgent an important to clean up (not to mention occasionally expensive.)

C- Not Urgent and Not Important – The back of the refrigerator needs cleaning. Not gonna happen — at least not until there’s pretty much nothing going on in my life. Do I get up from my work, or not?

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (www.888-4-hollis.com), who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.