“It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau
What Are We So Busy With?
Why do we love being so busy? And what are we so busy actually doing?
As entrepreneurs we are constantly filling up our calendars to the brim. Meetings on meetings, events on events on events. The hustle never ends. I know Elon Musk is famous for it, but does it really make sense to be too busy to eat? Too busy for food? What have we become?
I was just looking at my calendar from August and I counted over 50 meetings and networking events. The month isn’t over yet and I took a week off! Excluding all the slots and responsibilities I booked in for myself.
We love the busy, we love having to do something from sun up to sun down and even after. 9 times out of 10 I respond to, “Hey, how are you doing?” with “Great, just super busy!” “Great, just hustling!” “Man, I can’t believe it’s August.”
Busy brings anxiety. When you are busy and multitasking everything is left not quite done. The stress carries over to the following day, week and continues.
I’ve got 7 email accounts on my iPhone and 15 on my laptop. This further exacerbates my constant state of busy. Someone is always awake, always emailing, always expecting an immediate response. Spending the majority of my time managing 2 businesses and a handful of smaller ventures and partnerships means my time is always needed by something, somebody, somewhere.
At my first startup, Altivex Creative Foundry, a digital strategy agency, our motto for the first several years was #NoDaysOff. We felt in the space of a competitive industry with a monopoly of big players that our best value add was simply working longer and harder than everyone else. We pitched this in meetings as our ethos and the game changer. To be honest we didn’t have much of choice, half the team put in hour after their day jobs and we had to try anything to keep the lights on. Most importantly to admit, we rarely worked very efficiently.
Our Perception of Busy
“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.” – Bill Gates
This quote epitomizes what we think of entrepreneurship. That it’s the only way to be. As entrepreneurs we fear downtime, silence, and worse yet someone else being busier! Our Instagram feeds are full off inspirational quotes reminding you that when you aren’t working someone else is, while you’re sleeping someone is hunting you down. We’re constantly looking in our rearview mirror!
However, there’s a difference between always working and working hard. Hard work and efficiency will always be key factors to one’s success, but the need and craving to always be busy won’t. Success won’t be measured solely on the hours we put in, number of meetings and events attended or the amount of tasks we’ve knocked off our to-do list. Success will be measured by the quality of the work we put in and the positive change we made in the world.
I still believe in #NoDaysOff. It’s permanently part of me and how I work. I believe in learning every day and pushing my brands and ideas whenever I’m awake. However, I’ve learned balance. I’ve learned how to work smarter.
Thanks to a life changing book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, I’ve learn to redefine 2 very important words to my daily vocabulary and practices. Priority and Decide.
The word “Priority” came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular and meant “the prior or very first thing.” In the 1900s we pluralized the term and started speaking of “priorities.”
The word “Decide” comes from the Latin root “cid” or “cis,” where we get words like scissors and homicide. The original word was actually quite harsh, meaning “to cut away” or “kill off.”
Each day I wake up and decide what the priority of my day is. The 1 priority. Not a list of 10 “very first things.” By deciding I literally and figuratively kill off and cut away all other items, distractions and unnecessary busy work. There are many more principles and insights on how to practice essentialism but these have been my root. Conducting a regular audit and systematically eliminating the nonsense and nonessential have been priceless.
New post coming soon on how this book truly changed my life but go get the book right now. http://www.amazon.com/Essentialism-The-Disciplined-Pursuit-Less/dp/0804137382 I’ve cleaned out my local book store at least 3 times buying up all the copies to hand out to partners, mentee’s and confused strangers.
Embracing Solitude and Right Now
I have a standing monthly lunch with a good friend of mine who is hyper aware of people’s body language and unstated emotions. Her life principle revolves around embracing solitude and stillness. She often meditates and focuses a lot of her energy on breathing and clearing the mind. While meditation isn’t for me I also take out parts of my day to step away from the noise, clear my head and refocus. Typically through some music or gazing out onto the cityscape. My business partner does that through escaping the office once or twice a day to clear his head through the hustle and bustle of the streets of Joburg.
We all have our ways but we often ignore them. Invest more time in thinking to and embracing yourself. Not every thought or idea has to come from a group setting on constant cycle of moving and shaking. There’s purity in escaping your routine.
Let go of your schedule and tasks. Slow down, take in what’s around you and embrace the value of now, this very moment. Time is precious and also very expensive. It fades away and we can never get it back.
Stop being so busy you miss what you’re working so hard for. Busy is overrated.
For more insights, rants and motivation tune into our weekly show, The Opportune Time, telling the stories of Joburg’s entrepreneurs, Wednesday 4-6pm CAT on jozimabonengradio.co.za.