‘Hey! How are you?’
‘Busy, as usual. Yourself?’
‘Yeah – really busy. Life’s just crazy, you know?’
We live in a world where it’s not only cool to be busy, it’s glorified. It’s the first thing we say when we greet each other. You’re given a pat on the back when you pull a hefty 13-hour day, or if you’ve done an all-nighter, or if you’ve rushed around like a mad thing to meet a deadline. We wear our ‘busy-ness’ like a badge of honour and will proudly tell everyone in our lives how crazy and hectic things are.
While we’re busting through myths and misconceptions, let’s debunk another one: life isn’t about trying to find ‘balance’ either.
I think the idea of striving for balance is unrealistic… and kind of destructive. Besides, it doesn’t even exist — it’s just another thing us ladies use to compare and measure ourselves against each other. We even use it as a self-inflicted weapon to make ourselves feel guilty and unworthy. I spent way too much time at work this week, I’m such a bad mamma. I didn’t fit everything in today, I’m such a failure.
The fact is there are times when my work requires more of me. Like when I’m bunkering down to write a book, or knee-deep in a speaking tour, or launching a new product. There are also times when my family or friends need me more, and everything else gets put on the back burner so I can show up fully for them. I believe it’s all about being present and riding the waves of life. Sometimes one particular area will call for more energy or more love and it’s our job to be so aware and tuned in that we can recognise it and act accordingly.
Ready to take action?
If you want to ditch the overwhelm and avoid the busy-ness trap once and for all (and supercharge your productivity while you’re at it), try these 7 hot tips:
1. Start using your digital calendar.
I used to love using a pretty hand-held calendar that I would carry around in my handbag everywhere I went. But not only was it chunky and extremely heavy, I found myself missing appointments and stuffing up times because the inside of my planner looked like my 2-year-old nephew had taken to the pages with a bunch of pens! We live in a world where things move and change all the time, and constantly crossing out and writing over things takes time and can look overwhelming (especially if you have writing like mine!). It’s so easy to move things around on your digital calendar. Plus you can sync it to your smartphone and computer, which makes booking things in super easy. You can also send calendar invites to other people so they don’t miss your meeting or catch up.
2. Make sure you schedule in time for you.
I know it sounds ridiculous that we have to actually schedule in downtime, but we do: if we don’t, it doesn’t happen! I personally make sure my yoga, meditation and afternoon self-love time are all added to my digital calendar, otherwise I know they’ll just fall by the wayside. Set yourself up for success by scheduling in your self-love time today. You can also make it a recurring task, which saves you time and makes sure these essential activities are always front-and-centre in your day.
For many years, I really struggled with this. My business is my baby, so handing anything over to someone else scared the bejeebers out of me. But since I have learnt to delegate, I have really been able to focus my attention on what I love most, which is writing, speaking, teaching, sharing and creating. As a result, my business has grown exponentially.
To make this shift for yourself, work out what you love doing in your business. If you love writing and creating content, and don’t necessarily love sending invoices, bookkeeping and assigning tags in Infusionsoft (marketing software), then hire someone else to do it. You need to stay in your zone of genius and stop wasting your precious time doing things you don’t enjoy. Life’s too short to do anything that doesn’t light you up.
4. Ask for help.
There’s a common misconception that we have to do it all alone and that if we don’t, we’re a failure. This is BS. When you really let go of that belief — and simply ask for help when you need it — you can avoid burn-out and stop overwhelm in its tracks. Give it a go.
5. Brain dump.
Every morning I do a brain dump into the app ‘Things’, which helps stop my brain swirling into overwhelm and falling into that unproductive busy-ness trap.
Want to supercharge your productivity? Meditate! But let me guess: you’re too busy and don’t have time, right? Wrong. We all have the same amount of hours in the day — it’s about prioritising yourself, scheduling it in your digital calendar, then showing up every single day. As Tom Cronin says, we have 72 units of 20 minutes per day. All you need to do is allocate two of those and you still have 70 units left!
7. Eat your frog first.
Once you get all of your tasks out of your head and into your app (or onto paper), you need to start organising them. Divide your brain dump into four categories:
- Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
- Things you don’t want to do, but actually do need to do (the frogs).
- Things you want to do and actually do need to do.
- Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
Once you’ve got your list organised, it’s time to prioritise the sections. The most important place to start? The ‘frogs’. These are the things you don’t like doing, but that actually really need to be done. They’re the ones you aren’t motivated to do, and that send you spiralling into procrastination. In fact, they can hang over your head all day and fill you with guilt… yet you still can’t bring yourself to actually get ‘em done.
So how can we finish our frogs?
Frogs need structure around them to ensure that they actually get finished. You can create the motivation you need to make them happen by either transforming them into something desirable (say, turning your weekly vacuuming session into a loungeroom dance-jam) or by linking the act of frog-finishing to a stronger habit.
In his famous book Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy suggests that the best habit to get into is eating your frogs first thing in the morning, which is exactly how I like to structure my to-do list. Not only does it mean you get the icky stuff over with first (leaving you free to do the things you enjoy without a cloud of guilt hanging over your head) but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Within the first hour or so of my work day, I already feel like I’ve made great headway, and that surge of momentum helps me glide through the rest of my day with ease. (Like Mark Twain once said, “If you have to eat a live frog, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a very long time!”)
Bonus Tip: Ban the ‘B’ word.
My team and I have eliminated the word ‘busy’ from our vocabulary. It helps, a lot! Try it if you like. And next time someone asks you how you are, try not responding with, ‘Oh, I am so busy’. Instead, connect with how you’re feeling and go from there.
Melissa Ambrosini, 9th April 2015