Busy is Not the Point

If you don’t follow the great Seth Godin on social media, I highly recommend you start today. He always makes me think.

For example, recently he posted this -- “There are no points for being busy -- busy is not the point.”

This really resonated with me!  I frequently tell people that I don’t just like to be busy. I like to be “crazy busy”.  But as I reflect on my own life, I think I am guilty of thinking being busy in and of itself is a good thing. After reading Seth’s post, I realize I should be refocusing on being productive and being creative. In other words, busy is not the point! 

I know I do this a lot -- I stay busy doing something that I enjoy doing rather than starting a project that I’m not as interested in or just don’t want to do.  It’s another example of why being busy is not the point.

The point is how productive you are – that is, working on things that need to be accomplished.    We all probably know people who are good at looking busy but who are really playing video games on line or shopping on QVC!  Appearing to be busy is also not the point.

If you’ve ever taken a time management class or read a book on how to maximize your time, you probably heard that we all have the very same number of hours in a day or a week to use and there isn’t a thing we can do to gain more hours.  We can only learn how to better use the time available!

I want to be clear -- this is not a blog about time management -- it’s about time maximizing! If you want to maximize your time, consider these two questions:

  • How can I make sure I’m not just doing stuff to show activity or avoiding doing something else?  
  • How can I use my time to do the things that matter?

Here’s the big lesson for me (and I hope for you) about thinking busy is the point -- learning to say no can make all the difference in the world! When I first started consulting, I said yes to anything anyone asked me to do because I thought if I said no, they’d never ask me again.  I quickly learned that was very faulty thinking, but I don’t think I’ve truly learned how important it is to be comfortable in saying no when what is being asked doesn’t fit into my long-term goals.

Being clear about those goals really makes a difference when you’re asked to take on a new task or responsibility. If it will move your forward, say yes! Consider that saying no allows you to build in time so that if something comes up that you want or need to do, you can say yes!

Many times, what matters isn’t work -- it’s spending time with family or volunteering at a soup kitchen or even having fun.  But if we are so hung up on being busy, we probably are missing out on some things that are a lot more significant in our lives.

Don’t, as Seth Godin says, “be busy being busy, instead of doing what’s important.” 

Barbara Mitchell

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