Redefine Busy: The single most important thing you can do
Much of what you do is automatic.
In a recent study, it was discovered that most people spend just under 50% of their time thinking about something other than what they're currently doing. We have wandering minds. That shouldn't be too big of a surprise.
In addition, it's been proven that over 40% of our actions are made subconscious. We are on auto-pilot for a good part of our daily decisions. These are called habits.
What I'm trying to say is that you may not be in control of yourself as much as you think you are.
Before you close this, saying “Bryan, that's not me. I'm in control of myself. I'm not like everyone else”, let me tell you about a tendency I've discovered in my research called illusory superiority.
According to Wikipedia, illusory superiority is a cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities, relative to others. Put simply, it's literally impossible for everyone to be above average, yet most people think they are.
Your commitment to change
In the last article in this Redefine Busy series, you committed to making a change. You said you wanted to stand for the anti-busy. You said you'd gain control of your businesses, get your life back and take ownership of your time.
You said you'd redefine your priorities, redefine your business and redefine busy.
If you really want to make a change, then you must first become aware of the problem
Well … if you really want to make a change, then you must first become aware of the problem.
And I'd say it's safe to assume that if you're still reading this, then you're at least open to the idea that you've got some room for improvement in the “busy” department, and that you aren't living the balanced life you'd like to.
How to make a change
How do you start to make this change, though?
Being “busy” and feeling as though you don't have control is a big problem. It's an epidemic, actually. Where do you even begin to change something so big?
Does 1 coin make a man rich?
I recently read a great book recently called Better than Before, written by Gretchen Reuben. She talks about a theory called the Paradox of the Growing Heap, also known as Sorites Paradox. In it lies the key to influencing change on such a massive level in our lives.
The Paradox of the Growing Heap is explained like this …
If you give a man 10 coins, would that man be rich? No.
If you give him 1 more coin, would that make him rich? No.
If you give him another coin, would that make him rich? No.
But … if you continued to give him 1 coin after another, eventually you would have to say that he's rich.
Any 1 coin did not make the man rich. In fact, each coin individually was meaningless. But it was 1 coin consistently added to the growing heap of coins that eventually did make the man rich.
The lesson here is that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless. Yet, at the same time, the sum of any one action, repeated over time, is very meaningful.
If you want to affect massive change in your life, you must make a commitment to consistent small improvements, repeated over time. You must change your daily habits. Over time, after intentional awareness and action, you can influence new habits and make significant change.
Why awareness is so important
I keep using the word “awareness”, because it's critical if you want to affect change. You must know what the problem is. You must be self-aware.
What is the problem we're trying to solve here, then? Well, it's the glorification of busy, the addiction to technology and the lack of focus. It shows up differently for everyone, though.
That's why I can't tell you exactly where you need to make changes. But what I can do is give you some clues. I can help show you what kinds of things to look for. I can give you some common examples.
Before I share these examples with you, though, let me warn you that awareness is powerful.
After gaining awareness, you'll never look at those habits the same again.
We're pulling the curtain back and exposing some very unproductive common habits that contribute to a busy lifestyle and a lack of focus. In noticing them, you're becoming consciously aware of things that most people don't even know they do.
It's like seeing how a magic trick is done. You'll never look at that magic trick the same again.
Awareness will change you. But that is the goal, after-all, isn't it? Here we go.
Be aware of the false rush
Do you ever rush to get somewhere when you don't actually need to be rushing?
Do you ever find yourself hurrying about and frantically hustling, without knowing why you're actually hustling?
Do you know what being in a constant hurry does to your mental state? To your physical state? It puts you in a frantic and flustered state of mind that sets you into an unproductive and negative trajectory.
I read a story once about an elevator repair company. Do you know what the most replaced part in an elevator is? It's the “close door” button. People hit it so often and so frequently, as if it will close faster if it's hit more than once.
(Side note: did you know that most “close door” buttons don't actually work?)
This illustrates my point. We are so rushed and hurried that we can't even wait a few seconds for the elevator door to close. We feel like we need to force it to close quicker. And if it doesn't, we hit it again. And again. And again.
Become aware of the false rush. There are very few things that are actually worth rushing for. Slow down.
Be aware of screen sucking
Have you ever found yourself browsing Facebook, reading an article, or watching a video on YouTube, only to look up and realize that an hour has passed? Two hours? Three hours?
Technology, social media and the internet can be very addictive. It's so easy to get lost in them.
Have you ever been doing work on your computer late at night when you're tired? There comes a point when you know you should put the computer away and go to bed, but instead, you stay on the computer. This is usually because the effort of getting up and going to bed is greater than staying relaxed on the couch on your computer.
There's a term for this addiction. It's called “screen sucking”, and it was coined by the author and psychologist Edward Hallowell, who wrote the book CrazyBusy, among others.
Become aware of how you use technology. Become aware of wasting time aimlessly on your computer. Become aware of screen sucking.
Be aware of the word “busy”
I talked about the phenomenon of “busy” in the last article in this Redefine Busy series.
We use “busy” as a justification or as a means of comparison. We use it as an excuse or a symbol of status. We wear it as a badge of honour. But what you're really saying when you say you're “busy” is that you don't have control, you don't take ownership, and that you are a slave to the conditions that you've created.
Let's put an end to it.
Let's eliminate the word “busy” from our vocabulary.
Become aware of your use of the word “busy” and don't use it as an excuse or status.
Be aware of “busy” work
Have you ever felt “busy” all day, but come the end of the day, you can't really identify what meaningful work you actually accomplished?
That just means that you were just doing “busy” work, were distracted or may have been putting out fires all day long.
I love the quote “don't mistake action for progress”, because it really draws attention to the difference between being doing “busy” work, and actually doing meaningful work.
Become aware of how you spend your time, and stay focused on meaningful tasks that move the needle.
Be aware of your automatic patterns
What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Do you reach for your phone? Do you check your email? Do you browse your Facebook feed?
If the first thing you do with your day is get sucked into the demands waiting for you on your phone, then you're starting your day off wrong. This shows no self-control and an addiction to technology.
Aside from the addiction, we lose mental focus every time we check our phones or read an email. As soon as you see a message or an email, your mind starts to process it. You get distracted, and you're thrown into a potentially negative state of mind.
Become aware of the automatic patterns you fall into. Interrupt them and don't fall prey to unnecessary distraction.
What other habits do you want to change?
There are dozens of other habits I could identify that are sucking your time, eating away at your focus and taking control of you.
I'd love for you to spend some time thinking about what other habits you'd like to change.
If you could step outside of your body and observe yourself throughout a typical day, what would you critique about yourself? Do you take your phone out and put it on the table during lunch meetings? Do you get distracted from email notifications while you're editing? Do you let family members interrupt you when you're working in your office?
Write them all down.
Now is the time to become aware. Once you are consciously thinking about your actions, you can commit to change them.
I shared at the beginning of this article that we spend just under 50% of our day in autopilot, and that 40% of our actions and decisions are habitual.
We need to take ourselves off of autopilot, because we've lost control. The autopilot is leading us down a path that we don't want to be on.
Move your habits from the subconscious to the conscious and become aware of your actions.
Awareness is power. Talk to you next week, in the next installment in this Redefine Busy series.