There are 24 hours in a day. We all have the same limited amount of time. Why do some people seem to be able to get exponentially more done than others? Someone who is ‘busy’ is often seen as hard-working, productive and succesful. However, in a world of endless pings, tweets and email notifications, being busy now only serves to narrow our perspective on the work that is truly important and meaningful.
Efficiency is Futile
Technology has made us much more productive than we were in the past, yet people seem to have less and less time available. With so much to do, it has become impossible to get everything ‘done’ and futile to even try. Increasing our efficacy, therefore, is pointless – it only allows more room to get more things done – it’s a never ending cycle. We have to accept that everything will not get done, and focus on what’s important rather than urgent.
Deep vs. Shallow Thinking
The Information Age is over, and in the upcoming Creative Age, innovation is the only valuable asset. But innovation requires deep thinking and reflection, neither of which busy people have much of. When we fragment our time, we focus on more and more things, but narrow our perspective. We cease to commit to ourselves to the single most important task deeply, nor do we allow ourselves the time needed to create an internal state of flow.
A Helpful Analogy
Wedding Planners like to be in control of every aspect of a wedding – the planning, timing, people, and unexpected events. This is a good model for how work-life could be in the past; we actually had the ability to complete all of our tasks and clear our inbox by the end of the day. In today’s world, having a ‘wedding planner’-type carreer is no longer an option.
We need to become more like a surfer. A surfer is not in control of the wave he or she rides, but he is free to chose an amazing path (life), harnessing the power of the wave that cannot possibly be controlled.
Less is More
Dunbars Number shows that human beings are only biologically equipped to keep track of 150 people – and 15 people should be the maximum of a close, inner circle. The same is true of projects, things, and events. Through diligent research, the author shows how we can increase our enjoyment and effectiveness by focussing more time and attention on less people, projects, things, etc.
When we’re busy, time is often cyphened from the people we love the most because we believe ‘they will understand’. In time, however, this sours relationships, making them less valuable and nurturing. It creates a vicious cycle that depletes our enjoyment of our important relationships, and untimately, our life.
Some of the most successful people in the world never miss their wedding anniversary or their children’s school plays. They are able to do this because they’ve determined (ahead of time) what moments are most valuable to them. Then they’ve fought to protect this time through habits, negotiations, and sacrifice.
How To Beat Busy
In order to take control of our time, we need to take a good look at ourselves, determine what we value, protect our values and the time they require, and focus the remaining time on doing things that are in alignment with our values. It’s an ongoing process that requires continual reflection.
Applying the Lessons Myself
Since reading this book I’ve decided to disconnect from my work completely once a week – in my case, making Sundays screen-free and work-free. By only doing things I want to (as opposed to things I ‘need to do’), I’m forcing myself to calm down and detach. Paradoxically, I can feel that this ‘time off’ is making me more efficient. I’m letting my subconscious do all of the heavy lifting for me, and spending my remaining time with people I love and activities I really enjoy.
It reminds me why I’m working so hard, during the week. And just like fasting or other forms of abstinence, it makes me appreciate my work more (I miss it).
So ask yourself: why are you working so hard?