Are you busy?

Are you busy doing the right stuff, or just doing stuff?

We’ve all been there; ask someone how they are and we usually get a response about how busy they are.  Similar to the clichés about talking about the weather, it’s almost become a standard response to complain how busy one is and to give examples of this.  “I’m really busy” seems to be the modern badge of honour.  But why?   And is this smart behaviour?

I was out for a run the other morning.  As I was running up a hill, (code for running slowly!) I had time to catch random snippets of people’s conversations.  This included coming across a couple of ladies walking where I heard the following exchange:

Q:  What did you do in the weekend?

A:  I managed to do a few emails...

And that was all I heard as I puffed on past up the lovely Mt Eden.  But that snippet left me pondering for the remainder of my run.  I just couldn’t help thinking about those emails.  Was that the most important or memorable thing she did that weekend?  And if it was; were they really important and highly productive emails to justify them being the best use of her weekend?

Proactive or reactive?

But then perhaps the reason it left me pondering so much, was that maybe I could relate.  How often have I ended up being sucked into the vortex of reacting to other people’s timetables and needs rather than being more self-directed in the use of my time?  And especially when one is tired and has been working hard for too long, and hence your levels of objectivity and resolve are perhaps at their weakest. 

Someone wise once said to me that I have exactly the same number of hours in the day as Bill Gates. (I think they chose Bill Gates as then the world’s richest man and hence as a proxy for someone successful).  Their intention was to give me a verbal slap.  To wake me up and bluntly point out that my “excuses” for being busy and not being able to achieve some hard or important things were just that; excuses. 

Whether or not I aspired to be like Bill Gates was not the point. (I don’t.  Albeit I am impressed with his steps to now use his considerable wealth for good and to encourage others to do similar.  In my opinion that deserves respect).  But rather, the point was that time is our most precious resource.  As such, we need to be aware and deliberate in our use of it. 

At the end of the day it is all about choices.  And with any choice there is a trade-off and compromise that needs to be considered and decided upon.  As my grandmother once told me; You can do anything you want.  You just can’t do everything you want.  She went on to qualify this that sometimes you can do everything you want, but just not all at the same time.  She was trying to teach me about weighing up alternatives and making choices.  

But when my grandmother was providing this wisdom to her then young grandson we lived in a simpler time.  We didn’t have to deal with the frightening array of sophisticated distractions that people are exposed to now.  Especially from things such as social media and other technology driven by incredibly sophisticated algorithms designed to be addictive to retain our limited attention; the technological equivalent of cocaine. 

Users and abusers of our time

So, what is your time being spent on? 

There are some frightening statistics out there such as how much the average New Zealander spends on social media like Facebook.  Likewise, the average statistics spent on watching TV, albeit now this is changing from mainstream TV to other media like Netflix, Lightbox and others.  In a more direct work context, the statistics for how much time the average business person spends on email is considerable. 

However, if we look at email as an example; how much of that time investment is highly productive time versus how much is taken up with information of perhaps of only remote interest?  Is it helping you proactively achieve something, or are you being the ball in someone else’s pinball machine?

My recommendation is to be aware and be deliberate.  The quality of your life will be determined by your choices.  And reacting to someone or something else is a choice.

Summary

  • Time is like money – you only have a limited amount.  So, what are you choosing to spend yours on?
  • You can do anything you want.  You just can’t do everything you want. (or at least not at the same time).
  • Decide what is important to you.
  • Be aware of time thieves.
  • Be deliberate.

Achieve more.

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Authors

Craig Fisher
Consultant