Raise your hand if the phrase “I’ve just been so busy lately” has come out of your mouth in the last month. Once? Twice? Every week for the last year? In the age of entrepreneurship and technology, being busy has become a way of life. Even though many of us would say that we value rest and that we realize the negative implications of a nonstop lifestyle, cutting back doesn’t seem feasible. It’s 2019- where hustle gets promoted and rest gets the cold shoulder. Where, maybe even subconsciously, burnout gets more celebrated than healthy self care. Where “I’ll be there for you” gets replaced with “I’m too busy.” Where “Family First” gets replaced with “I’m too busy.” Where “I’m going to create this healthy habit” gets replaced with “I’m too busy.” Where “Jesus is my number one priority” gets replaced with, you guessed it, “I’m too busy.”
At some point, we become so attached to our nonstop, busy lifestyle that it becomes a safe place.
This blog isn’t really about cutting back or about saying no. At this point, we probably all know what we need to do to realign our priorities. Most of us are either in a season where being busy seems necessary (school, setting ourselves up for the future, proving ourselves at work, etc.), OR we have purposefully built the busy lifestyle we have and are not ready to give that up. Either way, I believe that even in seasons where we are really, really busy, there are still ways to intentionally create more time. The “busy” label doesn’t have to define our lives.
1. STOP SAYING “I AM BUSY.”
I’m convinced that if the modern worker removed the phrase “I’m busy” out of their vocabulary, they would have the time to do most of the things they said they were too busy for!
It’s more than just a phrase. When we say “I am busy” over and over and over again, we are teaching our brains to set that mode as our default. Being busy (and complaining about it) becomes a habit. It becomes normalized. As a result, we become uncomfortable with time itself. When we don’t have it, we complain about it. When we have it, we panic and attempt to fill it.
This week, I challenge you to make a note of every single time the word “busy” comes out of your mouth. For that matter, count every time that you consciously think it.
After you’ve tallied up your busy remarks, begin to evaluate the root of why you keep saying it. Is it because you are actually upset about how your time is being filled up? If so, recognize that and change something. Or, could the root be something else? Could it be that you say it because you want people to acknowledge your accomplishments? Or that you feel obligated to justify your time to someone else? Could it be that you have a problem simply saying “no”? If you want to change it, change it. If you don’t want to change it, I challenge you to at least stop talking about it so much!
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR LIMITED DOWN TIME
Do you have 3 hours on a Sunday morning to spare? An entire Saturday? 15 minutes on the car ride to work? It honestly doesn’t matter that much. The reality is, if you are in a busy season, minutes become about quality over quantity. Rather than spending any spare moment you have thinking about your to do list or complaining about your busyness (seriously if this point has not been adequately made please go re-read the last point), it’s important to take advantage of every single minute. Take this time to get refreshed.
Getting refreshed looks different for every person. It doesn’t necessarily mean lying on a couch and binge-watching Netflix (although if this is your best method- more power to ya!) For me, getting refreshed looks like going on a run, playing a sport, or going to the top of a mountain for a beautiful view. If I only have 15 minutes to get refreshed, I will listen to a worship song, read a few pages out of a good book, or rewatch a few scenes from any episode of “The Office” for a quick laugh.
It doesn’t really matter what you do, it just matters that you are intentional with your down time.
3. BATCH WORK
With the all-consuming world of technology being a part of our day-to-day lives, we have become increasingly bad at focusing on one thing at a time. Our attention is always being pulled in several different directions, making it difficult to actually get any big task done in an efficient manner.
Has this scenario ever happened to you?
*opens computer to respond to the seemingly never-ending emails
*sends one part of an email
*sees Instagram notification, checks Instagram
*writes another portion of email
*stares off into the distance
*opens Facebook on a different tab
*gets caught in the abyss of Facebook
*gets mad at Facebook for being Facebook
*remembers how much you have to get done
*returns to email
*leaves to get coffee to try to stay focused in order to finish the emails
Guilty? Me too.
Batch work simply means this: complete tasks that are similar at the same time. Rather than jumping between sending one email, posting a graphic, making a phone call, and then sending another email, combine all of your similar work into one part of your day. Grab a coffee, turn your phone off, and take 45 minutes to respond to all of your emails at once. Do not move on to anything else until you are done. This will save A LOT of time in the long run (and it will feel so satisfying to cross off that many emails from your to-do list, giving you more momentum!)
4. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
The more distracted we are, especially when it comes to our phones, the busier we feel. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that we can’t focus on our task at hand, making it take much longer than it should. The second is that we feel like we have to be available to everyone at every given point in time. If someone texts us, we have to respond right away. If someone posts a picture, we have to see it right away. If _____, we have to ____ right away, no matter what should be occupying our current attention. Put down your phone, focus on the task at hand, and respond when you can. If you have to, put your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode. I promise that everything will still be at your fingertips after you finish your more important task.
As a caveat, I one billion percent recommend taking Instagram notifications off of your phone. Seeing a “like” or “comment” pop up every few minutes after posting will take your attention every time your phone lights up, cause you to open your app far more than you should, and, if you aren’t already convinced, will drain your phone battery way faster.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Everyone goes through seasons of busyness, stress, and exhaustion. While it’s not healthy to permanently reside in that state, it is inevitable at times. During seasons like this, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be straightforward. Ask your family to give you grace as you are unable to give as much to them. Ask your roommates to make you dinner while they make theirs. Ask your friend to pick you up coffee on their way home from work. If it makes you feel better, offer to pay for theirs too! And just remember, eventually they will be in that season and you can help them too.
Do you have any other tips on ways to be less busy even when you’re really, really busy? Let us know!