Busy? Are you out of control?

It seems like everywhere you look, anyone you might talk to, people are busy.

And not just kind of busy, but crazy busy.

Busy to the point that they are feeling exhausted. Busy to the point that they are miserable, neglecting things that make them happy or make them feel good (longer walks, the time to make a great meal, an extra 10 minutes to just soak in the quiet…).

What’s going on here? Why does it seem like everyone is always so ‘busy’? And is there anything to be done about it?

Some of the problem is just bad luck and timing. There are just days when things happen and you end up with a lot more on your plate than you planned. And, for a variety of reasons, it feels like they all have to get done now – and because they weren’t planned it piles on top of everything else you might have thought you would be doing.

But what about all those other days when we’re crazy busy? Arguably it’s because we’re out of control. And more specifically it’s because we haven’t done a good job setting priorities and saying ‘no’.

I was flipping through Tim Ferriss’s book Tool of Titans (because that’s kind of how you read that book) and ran across the section on ‘How to say No when it matters most’. One of the ideas in that section is a quote from Derek Sivers (that coincidentally I had been thinking about a lot lately).

“If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no.”

Derek Sivers

If you get some of the backstory from Sivers on that quote, he talks about a time in his career where he was feeling overwhelmed, resentful and… well, too busy. He brought it up to a friend of his who shared her philosophy that whatever you say yes to should be something that really excites you. We tend to say yes to too many things, making it almost impossible to really enjoy or go after those rare big things that would be a ‘Hell Yeah’ moment.

Think about that.

If you were approached with a great opportunity, a ‘Hell Yeah’ situation for you, would you be able to pursue it right now?

Or would you be too busy?

Out of Control?

The other part of this idea that resonates with me is the idea that people who are crazy busy are out of control.

Obviously you need to make money.

You need to eat.

You need to take care of your family.

But that shouldn’t take all of your time – and if it is, something is wrong. You’re in the wrong job, you haven’t developed the right skills, you haven’t found the right place where you’re valued enough.

Or you’re just out of control and reacting.

What can you do?

Here are a couple of ideas that might help you break this cycle…

1 – Map your time and figure out what’s sucking up the biggest chunks

I know your first thought is that you don’t have time for this… (ironic isn’t it?). Once you get past that thought, start noting how you’re spending your time. You can review your calendar at the end of the day, keep a notebook next to you and jot things down when you notice them, whatever works for you. The goal is to start getting a feel for things that take up a lot of your time.

Once you have some solid candidates, carve out a bit more time (I know that’s hard) and brainstorm how you could delegate, automate or just get rid of those things.

And then do that. Take action, make some changes. Stop doing some things.

And see how things go. You only need to make a couple of good changes to see a lot of relief – but it’s not always obvious or easy to figure out what those changes should be, so experiment.

2 – Start saying No

There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll get hit up with at least a couple of new requests this week to do something.

Your first thought should be ‘no’. Of course that brings up the fear that you’ll be letting people down or disappointing them. The reality is that if you’re firm and confident about how you handle things, people will actually respect you more if you say no.

Try it.

Granted this won’t help you immediately, but it does open up your future calendar. And… if you can make this a habit, things should become much easier down the road.

Are you out of control? Are you truly prioritizing how you spend your time or are you mostly just reacting?

Maybe it’s time to do something about that.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below – but I understand if you don’t have the time for that. 😉

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach