It seems everyone I speak to these days talks about how busy they are. The number of people multitasking is multiplying. The demands of keeping up, logging in, staying connected and attending to personal and professional details can be overwhelming.
Managing time and finding time for yourself is probably the number one concern brought up when I interview women about handling their stress and maintaining balance in their lives.
I don’t mind being busy. I mind when being busy becomes non productive or even wasted time. More important, keeping busy should not keep you from enjoying your life and taking care of yourself. A busy mind keeps you young; being too busy to take care of you could do the opposite.
Some people stay busy to distract them from things they don’t really want to address. How many times have you said, “I don’t have time to (fill-in-the-blank)”? is it that you did not have the time or that you just did not want to bother making the time? For example, “I am too busy to exercise.” “I am too busy to get together with friends.” “I am too busy to take a break.”
I tend to keep myself busy when I feel anxious. I start cleaning out drawers and closets, organize files and paperwork. I grew up in a house filled with clutter, so creating order calms me. But that may not work for everyone. Keeping busy can be productive, but staying perpetually busy can be counter productive.
I think it is important to learn to mind your busyness. It’s a matter of time management, setting priorities and accepting that you may not be able to have it all and do all. And that is perfectly fine.
Once you learn to mind your busyness, you will find you have more time to do other things, Here are my tips:
1. Think of managing time like managing your diet. It’s about balance, portion control and not overloading your plate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and space out your tasks into different parts of the day to give yourself some breathing space.
2. Detach yourself from the computer and especially emails and social media. Life will go on if you miss a few hours of log in time. I set aside certain times of the day to answer emails and connect with social media. Unless your job is managing and monitoring social media full time, you have no need or business staring at a screen all day connecting with people virtually when you could be actively doing something else or and having some face time with people around you.
3. Always have a prepared agenda or list when you attend a meeting or go out to run errands. It is easier to check off a list than realize later you forgot to address or pick up something.
4. Plan dinners or cocktails to gather up all those friends and acquaintances who tell you, “Let’s meet for a drink.” Make it a small gathering and everyone can meet up at once.
5. Delegate or share tasks. Assign chores to specific days of the week. There’s no joy in taking on too much and feeling overloaded. Learn to ask for help.
6. Let voice mail take your messages so you can concentrate on what you are doing or focus on the people you are with. There is nothing better than a great conversation with a friend at the right time, but if the time is not right let them know. It’s more considerate to give someone your full attention than half an ear. There is also nothing ruder than someone who takes a call during a meeting or a meal.
When I was facing my cancer treatment, I told everyone that I would only take calls to talk about how I was doing on Fridays. I called it “Cancer Fridays.” By allocating my time to catch up with friends on Fridays, I could deal with the jumble of other issues without distraction the remainder of the week.
7. Respect the fact that everyone is busy and some may not be the super multitasking maven that you are. It is always polite to ask, “Is this a good time to talk ?” before launching into a conversation. Be patient with emails and texts. I think it is odd that people expect me to respond immediately to a text or email. as if I am permanently attached to my mobile phone,
8. Set priorities. Decide what needs to take precedent first and stick to it. Don’t allow petty distractions to get in the way.
9. Be flexible. If a schedule changes or an emergency pops up, be ready to roll when everything starts to rock.
10. Keep your busyness to yourself, or at least curate what you share. Talking about how busy you are can make others feel uncomfortable. Some people may feel they are not busy enough. Others may think you are too busy for them.
Finally, never be too busy to enjoy your day, make time for yourself, be considerate of others and seize opportunities that come your way. The worse thing is to look back at a moment in life with regret and admit, “I was too busy.”