Why You Feel Busy All The Time
How many times have you answered “how are you” with “busy”? How often do you feel like you simply don’t have enough time in the day? We're leading busier lives than ever, and it can be overwhelming. At what point though do you take a step back and really start to prioritize? What better time than now?
Prioritization is a powerful tool we should take advantage of more often. It’s been ingrained in our minds that multitasking makes us better. We can do it all! However, that’s not the case. When we are spread too thin, we can’t be our best to friends, families, co-workers and most importantly, ourselves. And when the important tasks are masked with busy work (that really adds no value) it leaves us even less quality time for ourselves and others. So how can we change being busy to working more effectively and efficiently?
Utilize the “one thing” approach
It’s easier said than done but taking it “one thing” at a time is the first step to prioritizing. You can take this one step further and divide your priorities into categories. What’s your priority at work, with family, with friends, with yourself? Today? This week? If you’re someone who gets overwhelmed easily, just focus on today. If you’re a big planer, feel free to prioritize your week or even your month. Just think about the things that it would be preferable to do vs what must be done. When you can develop a greater focus and change your approach, you’ll be able to do your best work everyday.
Recognize that this takes a tremendous amount of discipline and mindfulness
Being able to focus on one task when you know you have several others to attend to can be difficult. So if you find yourself struggling to adopt the “one thing” approach, don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re only human. But with enough practice, this will eventually become second nature. And that’s something you can be proud of. Our time is limited and as much as we don’t want to admit it, we can’t do it all. And that's okay!
Try the Pomodoro Method
This strategy is ideal for those who have several tasks to tackle in one day. First, identify your tasks for the day. You can do this in categories like we discussed, if the structure works with your planning style. Or you can just list all of the tasks that must be done today. Then set a timer for 25 minutes and work for the duration of the timer. Once the time is up, take a five minute break. Get up, stretch your legs and grab some water. Give your brain a rest. Then get back to it. Then after every fourth break you can take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Maybe go on a walk, get some lunch, squeeze in a quick work out. Whatever you need to do to reset. This strategy will allow you to focus on your most important high-value work while giving you the freedom to attend to different tasks.
Focus on proactive (rather than reactive) tasks
A proactive task is something you want to do (ie. find a new job) while a reactive task is something that someone else wants you to do (ie. respond to an email). Proactive tasks are aligned with your long-term goals and reactive tasks bring little long-term benefit. This can be divided one step further into urgent / not urgent proactive / reactive tasks. If you’re more of a visual person, place your tasks into these categories: urgent proactive tasks, not urgent proactive tasks, urgent reactive tasks and non urgent reactive tasks. Once you’ve figured out what tasks should go where, consider the 80/20 rule here. Spending 80% of your time on proactive tasks and 20% of your time on reactive tasks (regardless of the urgency) is optimal.
Know there will always be more tasks and more time
It always seems like we check one thing off our list just to add five more tasks. Our to-do lists will grow, and that’s a fact. Thankfully, there’s another day ahead. There will always be more emails to answer, projects at work, family obligations, friends to see, and places to be. We feel pressure to do it all. But when we go back to our “one thing” approach, it’s better to know that we have put our all into each task rather than doing a mediocre job at “doing it all.”
So, spend your time right
For many of us, we like to be busy for the sake of being busy. But what are you trying to avoid by being busy? Are you drowning yourself in work to avoid a situation at home? It's something we might not even realize we are doing. But one that's important to recognize and take action if you feel like that situation applies to you. It’s good to be productive but as with everything in life, it’s all about balance. When we say we don’t have enough time for something, we rarely clarify how much time we should be devoting to that task. When you’re proactive and can assign an amount of time to each of your tasks, you will ultimately feel like you have enough time. Some tasks will take longer while others we’ll finish faster than we thought. It will all balance out in the end. Don’t worry if the time allocated isn't the actual time spent.
Review your daily routine
Before you decide how you’re going to allocate your time, get a better idea of where you currently stand by tracking your daily activities. Where is a majority of your time being spent? And are these urgent / non-urgent, high / low value, or proactive / reactive tasks? Emails, meetings, events, even small talk with co-workers. Record it all. Analyze the amount of time you spend on each task and if that’s the amount of time you’d like to be spending.
Focus on high-value work
When you set your priorities for the day, the week or even the month, you’ll be allocating time to focus on your high-value work. Therefore leading to a more efficient way to spend your time. Think about what you’re wasting, spending and investing your time on. When you focus on low-value work, you waste time. And when time is a precious asset, that’s something not to be wasted. Choose to invest your time on activities that contribute to your long-term growth.
Because time is so valuable, we want you to make the most of it. When you can minimize the busy work that adds no real value to your long-term goals, you’ll have more time to do what’s important to you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and would like to speak with a professional, schedule an appointment with one of our therapists today.
If you are seeking counseling in New York City, contact us today to learn more about our services!
Request a Consultation
Fill out the form below to have one of our therapists reach out to discuss consultation services in New York City.