Are you too busy? I can probably guess your answer…. DUH!
If you are like most people, your answer to this question is “yes!” Of course your life is busy—your challenge however, is to move from being busy to being effective. Shifting your perspective from being busy toward being effective is the key.
We are all surrounded by cultural influences that seem to reward us more as human doings than as human beings. With this backdrop, it is not surprising that characterizing your life as busy is perceived and accepted as “normal.” Many of us even wear our busyness like badges of accomplishment. Without thinking about it, we are telling ourselves the busier we are, the more important we are. However, just because something is “normal” (the cultural norm) does not mean it is healthy.
In fact, I believe that excessive busyness is one of the most common dysfunctions in our culture. By staying busy, your mind is constantly focused on the future, racing on about what you need to accomplish next. Busyness is effective at one thing--killing “The Now.” When you focus on your busyness you are shutting out the only moment you actually have—the present—and the only place that Spirit resides—in the NOW.
Busyness is a prescription for spiritual bankruptcy because you are constantly withdrawing from the principal foundation of your life without replenishing yourself. One of the challenges is that your busyness is often encouraged and rewarded by other people through social exchange. In fact busyness has actually become a form of social capital whereby we exchange busy greetings as a form of belonging and acceptance. Conversations typically go something like this:
“Hello, how is it going?”
“Great…good to see you, how’s it going?”
“Fine, I’m just so busy I can’t believe it.”
“Me too, with (fill in blank here) work, school, kids activities, church, etc…”
“I can relate.”
It’s like both people have an unspoken contract that states, when we see each other on the street, let’s both reinforce our dysfunctional busyness by talking about how busy we are. If both of us exchange busyness talk then we reinforce this sick cycle and we can avoid living at a deeper level.
The good news is that you do not have to engage in this form of transaction. In fact every
time you do, you are passively withdrawing power from your life. Transforming your life is only a perception away. Choosing to detach from this public conversation and dysfunctional cultural response will free you to make room to notice Spirit working in your life.
Try this experiment:
Throughout today, replace the word “busy” with the word “effective.” When you greet people, engage in the exact same kind of conversation, but tell them how effective you are instead of how busy you are.
Have fun with this experiment. Watch how the other person reacts. They will often be startled because your answer was not the typical busy answer that they expected. Then you can both laugh at the difference.
Today, your challenge is to move from being busy toward being effective.
Life is short. Today is all that you have, and it too will soon pass.
One solution to the busyness trap is to shift your perception from seeing yourself as being busy to seeing yourself as being effective. Each meeting, e-mail, phone call is an opportunity for you to create more meaning and effectiveness in your life.
You have a choice about how you see yourself in this day. Busy is not enough. You must seek meaning and effectiveness.
All of us are busy—get over it. Start being...effective!
STRATEGIES: Move From Busy To Effective
1. Take time to examine your typical workday. Don’t do anything except observe and notice differences between being busy versus being effective.
2. How do you define busy? How do you define effective?
3. In a typical week, are you busy or effective? What do you say to yourself in your private conversations?
4. Disrupt your “normal” conversational response pattern with this experiment. Instead of greeting someone with your old patter of busyness that goes like this:
Person 1: “How’s it going?”
Person 2: “Great, just really busy.”
Experiment with a new pattern like this:
Person 1: “How’s it going?”
Person 2: “Great, I’m just really effective.”
Observe their reaction and internally, how you feel.
5. The next time someone asks, “How are you doing?” think about how you want to reply. Tell yourself, “I am choosing to perceive effectiveness rather than busyness.”
6. For today: List how you can be more effective today without doing more. Instead of listing external tasks that need to be accomplished list internal states of being, like feeling calm amidst hurried people; feeling satisfied at the end of the day; enjoying the ordinary moments like driving to work or taking kids to school.
7. A Word of Caution: To perceive effectiveness through the lens of busyness, will cause you to value and interpret effectiveness with merely accomplishing external tasks. This is the very misperception that you must correct in order to experience more joy and meaning in your life. It is the difference between quantity--which is about doing more—(and is typically the focus of most time management seminars) and a focus on the quality of being.
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