Part II of II. About five years ago, I wrote a blog called, “We get it. You’re Busy. Who Isn’t…” in which I stated that I hated the word “busy” because people use it as a way to describe their lives. I still don’t want to hear that you are busy when I ask how you are. It is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I further went on to say  I prefer to believe that I am active and engaged and taking on new challenges, and not busy.  In my world, I chose to stop glorifying the word busy.  It has been about five years since I wrote that blog and well…

I got busy.

I took on too much, I went back to get my graduate degree, I got involved in too many things, I refused to say no to a community effort or board or meeting or committee because I was active, engaged, and working towards a better future.  When asked, “How are you doing?”, in my effort to never utter the word busy, I would instead state that I was “getting by” or “trying to balance all the great things” or in moments of total honesty, I would simply say tired.  One evening at a networking event, someone asked me what I was working on, instead of how I was doing. After I regurgitated just a few things that I was currently working on, he sighed and said, “Wow. You seem really busy.”  And there it was.  For all the ways that I was trying to avoid the word busy, I still did not avoid the state of being busy.

I began to ponder how to get myself out of this hurried, overwhelmed, unfocused way of life. The state of being busy is a bigger beast than saying the word busy. And breaking these habits was going to take a lot more effort from me than changing a response in my conversational patterns. Here is what I have learned.

How I Un-busied Life

Find your Top 5

I was passionate about all the things I was involved in, so it was hard to choose what was truly important for me.  Was it supporting the arts in Springfield, or helping kids in our area, or being an advocate for those currently living in poverty? Was it serving on the committee that I really enjoyed because I was learning a lot, or should I be a part of something in which I contribute more than I get out of it? How do you choose what is the most important when everything is important?  I took a lot of time to reflect and figure out what is really important to me and I built a top 5 list. My list looks like this:

  1. Family: Blood and chosen
  2. Friends: Real ones, not just the ones on Facebook
  3. Work: My team comes first, then client, then community
  4. Health and Wellness
  5. Learning

I keep this list as the background of my phone. It helps me make decisions about how I spend my time. If there is a scheduling conflict or someone asking for my time, I know how to prioritize my life and where to spend my precious time.  Even though I am fully passionate about promoting the arts and advocating for those living in poverty, neither of those made the Top 5.  I will continue to be involved in my passion projects, because I think they are part of being holistically healthy (#4) and learning (#5). But just seeing this list is freeing for me. It allows me to say no to things without guilt and acts as my compass.

Tone Down the Tech Time
Put down the phone. Hide the laptop and tablet and let Netflix chill for once.  I put away ALL screens after 8:00 PM.  I do not allow myself to scroll on the computer, watch TV, surf social media, or play digital games.  I allow myself to use the telephone feature of my phone and call my family or friends for updates on their lives and depending on the person I may even text but this one often leads to additional screen use, so it is trickier. If I am not on the phone with a family member or friend then I am able to meal prep, exercise, read a book, do any of the many chores I am always putting off, play a board game, meditate, or have a genuine and uninterrupted conversation with the significant other.  This single change in my habits has given me the space and time to think about myself, my surroundings, and my loved ones. I now believe that it is essential that we all take some time, every day, to disconnect with technology and reconnect with ourselves.

What and Why

Everyone has a to-do list.  Whether it is mental, paper, or digital, we all have one. And while I was overwhelmed at the number of things on my list, I found myself moving the “heftier” items to the bottom of my list.  Did it really matter if I didn’t do employee reviews for another week? I had clients to see and services to be rendered.  Networking or contacting vendors for better pricing or reviewing our strategic plan seemed too big or daunting to work on. Day-to-day operations got done and no deadlines were missed, so things were ok.  I looked at my list and realized why it was so easy to move things around or deem them not as important as other things; it was because I didn’t bother to think about WHY they were on MY list.

Then, I added a WHY column on my to-do list and it began to read something like this:

☐ WHAT: Call James. WHY:  To discuss pricing model and ensure that we are aligned with industry standards for the coming year

☐ WHAT: Complete Employee Evaluations.  WHY: Because good leaders create more leaders. Our people deserve to have acknowledgement and assistance with their personal and professional growth and one on one attention with their boss

☐ WHAT: Review Invoicing.  WHY: Because I am the bottleneck if I don’t complete this and sets the entire department back.  When I don’t do this is makes them feel like I don’t value what they do.

☐ WHAT: Follow Up with Sarah. WHY: Networking is intentional relationship building. I have to build trust, be seen as an expert, and do the things that I said I was going to do.

☐ WHAT: Call Credit Card Company. WHY: Because I am the only one who has access to this. While on the phone with them, see if I can add access to someone in accounting department. Continue to seek opportunities to delegate things that others can be doing.

When I look at the WHY I am doing something, generally it is more than just doing it because it needs to get done.  The why of my to-do list helps me think more about people, relationships, and the type of leader I wish to be.

These changes have significantly improved my quality of work, close relationships, and overall health. I no longer feel busy, or overwhelmed and get just as much, if not more, completed than I did in days past. The Top 5 guides me, the disconnection connects me with others, and the Why in my To-Do list propels me to focus on others and becoming a better leader.

If I didn’t convince you to stop glorifying busy with my first blog, I hope that this one does it better. We will all be better leaders if we can put the human back into Human Resources, the kind back into mankind, and the you back into your life.

What are you going to work on today? And Why?