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How to Stop Being Too Busy

July 29th, 2013

Under-commit

We might as well face it. Those of us who realize how many things we can do well are not so much arrogant as needy. We need to be honored with all those invitations to sit on boards and committees, plan major projects and save the world.

Unfortunately we often try to do it all, and thereby wind up either dropping a good many important balls, hindering some powerful projects, spending our time with stuff we could have delegated, or simply burn out through too much stress and too many sleepless nights.

Our new word for the week is "Under-commit". For me that means taking only half the projects with which I am "honored". This means I have TWICE the time to do the things I've committed to doing--like my job for instance.

I'm not planning to drop anything that I'm currently doing. Successful completion will take care of most of those projects within the year. At that point I can agree to some other exciting adventures--but only enough to replace the ones that are complete.

It's better to be under-committed than over-committed. (I think. I have never really tried it before. Have you? How's that working for you?)

Focus

Live in the moment. Respect yourself, your projects and the people you are with right now. Given this extra time from under-committing you can afford to pay attention to the person or task at hand. Focus includes listening really hard (listening to feelings underlying layers of what you are hearing, instructions, new ideas and the hopes, dreams, plans, frustrations of those with whom you are present--really present).

Set a goal to finish each project or task BEFORE its due date. Don't let your mind wander to the next big plan. (Make a note when it comes to mind, and then set it aside until there is a place in your schedule to become involved in it.)

Notes are a huge asset. Have a "one day I want to do this" list that is a futuristic TO DO list with no pressure. Don't spend time trying to remember these things any more than we do trying to remember everyday tasks to which we have committed. Write it down, and go to it when you finish the piece on which you are currently working.

Prioritize--do what you enjoy

A friend of mine recently commented, "Everything you do seems to revolve around UCOM (my job/calling), church or your family." That was an objective, non-judgmental assessment of my life. I breathed a sigh of relief. Those are indeed my priorities, though not necessarily in that order.

I am a family man. Given the choice of being with my family (including my extended intentional family) or any other social activity, I choose family.

My position at UCOM is an all-consuming passion. I love what I do, the people with whom I do it, and the great outcomes that result. All these things make me feel really good. This job satisfaction sets UCOM high on my priority list.

Finally priority three is the church. Mine is an inclusive community that embraces my family and me, encourages our hopes and dreams, and accepts us regardless of where We are on any day of our journey of faith, self-acceptance and social justice.

In the final analysis, I don't know whether we choose our priorities or they choose us. I do know that when I pare down my commitments to bare-bones, everything that I am doing has to fit within these priorities. Everything I do has to allow time for engaging all three priorities.

What are your big three?

Cut down on time consuming activities

One of the biggest drains on time has to be long phone conversations. Take advantage of new technology to give short, courteous answers or ask questions by text message. Call back when people are out  and leave a brief phone message. Remember that you are not obligated to spring into action every time the phone rings. Don't return calls to sales people you don't want to talk to.

Check your email a couple of times a day when you have a few minutes to respond. Don't write emails that develop into novels.

I'm working hard to reduce most of my appointments during working hours to 1/2 hour rather than my usual hour. Have an agenda for one-on-one meetings, as you do for larger meetings. Let the person with whom you are meeting know the areas you wish to cover and ask them to let you know in advance what they want to cover. Limit your visiting time in business meetings to half of your business agenda time. (1/2 hour meeting by this formula would be 21 or 22 minutes business and 8 or 9 minutes visiting.) Do the business part first! Be flexible enough that your business acquaintances who are also friends know that you care for them personally. In this case schedule separate business meetings and social meetings with the same people according to your priorities to keep yourself from feeling too busy.  

Try simpler or less frequent entertainments

Often I feel too busy. Checking my schedule I find that many of the things that are making me feel busy are social engagements. My schedule will look better in a few months as I pare down those fun outings to shows, restaurants and travel; eat at home more; spend some relaxing downtime, rather than needing to entertain myself (and others) every day with some new thing.

Establish a routine

An established pattern for going to sleep, rising, household tasks, family time, work schedule, eating times, exercise and socializing gives a sense of continuity and routine that is comforting. Too much flexibility in the routine destroys it. Everyone must customize their routines according to their life's priorities.

How about it? Are you too busy? Have you ever felt too busy? What did you/will you do to bring your busy-ness under control?

Comments

#1 Rachel DeMaagd said:

Sometimes people are so overwhelmed and forget what's important. Yes It's important to get things done. But who's knows what tomorrow will be ?

#2 Mary Kennedy said:

Well written Bruce! Want to give this a try! Thanks for putting what I have been feeling into words.

#3 Melissa Anderson said:

It's an ongoing balancing act, isn't it? I am happier and more productive when I am busy, but that means I am more apt to err on the side of being just over the too-busy line on a regular basis and it is always the same things that are being neglected and causing me guilt.

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