You’re too busy. So am I. Pretty much all of us are. It’s like there’s a Busy Virus sweeping the nation and most of us are carriers. Call it the Busy Zombie Apocalypse. Some have managed to avoid the contagion, but not many.
Signs of infection include packed schedules, overwork, exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and a complete loss of the boundaries between our work and personal time.
If scientists were to trace the virus back to its origin, I suspect that “Patient Zero” would either be Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Both gave us amazing inventions that wowed us and drew us in, but also sowed the seeds of our infection. The iPhone, iPad and Facebook were like Sirens calling us all to shore. Most of us heeded the call and set sail for the enchanting music coming from just beyond the rocky coastline.
Don’t get me wrong. A busy schedule and useful tools are wonderful when they help us to be busy and productive with things that actually matter. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. Our busyness is actually keeping us from accomplishing the things we really care about.
Why? When the Busy Virus strikes, it goes to your core and identifies what it is that you really want out of life. Then it hopelessly dilutes those dreams with a deluge of trivial and unnecessary tasks. It forces you to become efficient at doing the unimportant, and ultimately prevents you from becoming effective at the things that really matter to you.
If you’re going to have a meaningful retirement, you need to embrace the idea that your goal is not to have busy days or full days, but days spent on things that bring meaning, fulfillment, purpose, fun, and happiness. For that to happen, you need to inoculate yourself against the Busy Virus.
Step 1 is to actually decide what you want out of life. You only get one go-around in this world and I’m guessing you don’t want your legacy to be defined by your high score in Angry Birds.
Create some space in your schedule this week to actually sit and think. What do you really want to do? What would fill you with a sense of purpose? What would make you happy and provide meaning? Dream big and have a vision for your life that goes beyond the daily treadmill of the trivial.
Step 2 is to start taking those plans very seriously. How much of your typical day is actually spent in service to the big dreams you outlined in Step 1? If the answer is “not much” then the Busy Virus is doing a good job at overwhelming your To-Do list. That’s about to change.
Step 3 is to purge. What tasks, obligations and responsibilities need to go? What can you finish up and be done with? What can you outsource or delegate? What has no business being there in the first place and just needs to be cut? Bring some sanity to your To-Do List by making a Stop-Doing List. As Tim Ferriss would say, be selective:
“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive.”
In other words, focus on the things that you’re passionate about and life will become more satisfying and less harried. Do more by doing less. Here are some additional articles and resources that can help.
- The ‘Busy’ Trap—The New York Times
- The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time—Harvard Business Review
- 20 Strategies to Defeat the Urge to Do Useless Tasks—Zen Habits
- The 4-Hour Workweek—Tim Ferriss
- How to Maximize Your Time in Retirement—Intentional Retirement
Have a great week!