Stop Being Busy and Start Being Efficient
Monday July 2, 2012

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“The really idle man gets nowhere. The perpetually busy man does not get much further.”
—Sir Heneage Ogilvie 

What does busy look like? A full social calendar, meetings lined up for weeks, chores that you are falling behind and messages that need to be replied to if only you could find the time? Perhaps.

Or maybe busy is simply one’s inability to prioritize their life because they haven’t found their purpose?

If you’ve ever had the discussion with someone where they explain to you how terribly busy they are, it’s almost as if they are quite proud of this status of assumed importance that our society tends to applaud. But why do we applaud it?

Shouldn’t we actually be noticing that this person is inefficient in managing their time and stop patting them on the back encouraging their behavior?

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world.”
–Eric Hoffer

Too often, and most of the time, busy is assumed to be synonymous with efficiency. In fact, it seems the goal of being busy often becomes the purpose of some people’s lives instead of having an actual fulfilling life purpose.

Why have a purpose when you can just say you are busy? After all, our society applauds busy bees. Because busy equates to productivity, right? Wrong.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
–Henry David Thoreau

Recognizably, there will be times when projects and situations in our lives call for more time than we had expected, but if it is a perpetual way of living then more often than not what is seen as busy is one’s inability to manage time well. In other words we are not being efficient.

“The man who has nothing to do is always the busiest.”
–French Proverb

Efficient is choosing to manage time well, come prepared, get to work, remain focused and finish the task, sometimes with time to spare. Efficiency requires a very clear purpose. When you know what it is you want the end result to look like, you are able to quickly eliminate anything that does not support completing the task. Therefore you are able to avoid wasted time, thus saving time (and energy).

More importantly, efficiency requires of each of us to have a very clear list of priorities. When we are clear about what is most important (spouse, children, career goals, college education, good health, saving money, etc), we are better able to turn down invitations, responsibilities and other demands if they conflict with priorities higher up on our list. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to do them, it simply means we desire something greater than the fleeting pleasure they will provide.

When we are not clear about our priorities, everything becomes important, we say yes to everything because we aren’t sure about anything’s importance. We aren’t sure about the life we want to create for ourselves, what we want to create and succeed at. This alone should motivate the “busy-bee” to turn inward and discover what it is they want from their life.

When you have a purpose, when you are clear about what you want your life to become, you recognize that you will need energy and resolute determination to complete the tasks that are necessary and enable yourself to not be deterred. After all, your body is a machine and without fuel, it cannot function, and when you lose energy, you lose the ability to think quickly and clearly in order to make the best decisions to preserve your direction and dissuade distracters.

Your body needs rest, sleep, food, time to unwind. In other words, your life needs balance. But if you have no purpose, you continue to spin your wheels like a boat that is still tied to the dock whose motor is trying desperately to pull you out to the glistening waters which wastes precious fuel with each rotation. You want to work, you’re willing to work hard, but your lack of purpose is holding you back and only wasting your energy as you spin your wheels. But just as in life when someone says they’re busy, we nod our heads because at least they are doing something. Well sure, they are doing something, wasting precious fuel and energy just like the boat docked, wasting fuel and going nowhere.

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” –Socrates
America has always been a nation of doers, and so to use the word “busy” we equate our lives as being important, vital and on-the-right-track. But if we’re on the track to nowhere or nothing, being “busy” isn’t anything, or any destination, I want to aspire to, do you?

For me, when someone states that they are too busy to take your call, spend time with you or schedule plans, it equates to the level of priority that person holds in their life, and while in some instances that is okay because someone’s a client, simply an acquaintance or there are pressing demands that understandably need tending to. However, when it is someone who is at the top of your priority list, and you thought you were for them, it sends a direct message, sometimes not intended by the other party.

Today, take a look at what you have discovered to be your purpose. What does your priority list look like, and does it complement the life you are trying to create for yourself. If not, adjust it, and then go about the task of being efficient rather than being busy because having regular free time to spend in the backyard with your kids watching them make up games refusing to let time to be their master, or lounging about with your significant other taking the day as it comes and refusing all other interruptions because you simply want to spend time together, that . . . that is a fulfilling life that is full of amazing moments instead of being busy, occupied with meaningless “to-do”s.

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves”
–Jack Kornfield

It truly is a fulfilling life that contains balance, clarity and purpose. Time to truly connect with others that you care about and communicate to them that they genuinely matter in your life is something that a busy life doesn’t foster. We must elect to pursue a life of efficiency so that we are able to complete the tasks that must be done in a timely manner so that we might build the relationships we desire – with others and ourselves.

Image: TSLL IG | The Simply Luxurious Life

10 thoughts on “Stop Being Busy and Start Being Efficient

  1. How beautiful and “timely,” pun intended. 😀

    It was a good reminder for me this morning. I worked very hard to have a work situation that allowed me a lot of time off during the summer months, and I’ve been busy filling it with to-do’s. This helped me scale back my to-do list to the things I know need done in order to make some room to do “nothing” with the wonderful new man in my life now on this hot summer day!

    Thank you for the reminder. Have a great week.

  2. I tend to rate my choices in a few ways: will this benefit my health? If not, will it bring me closer to my family/loved ones? If neither, will it benefit my wellbeing- social, fun, exciting? If none of these, will it benefit my career goals? Finally, will it save me money? This way I won’t be saying no to dinner out with girlfriends just because it’s a splurge, healthwise and $$wise, because I know it is good for my social wellbeing. Likewise, I won’t feel guilty missing a friend’s party for a weekend home with my family, or spending a little extra cash for a fab yoga membership. Etc.. All about balance- As long as I am balanced between my priorities, I find that I can’t go wrong and have few regrets.

  3. So right on the spot Shannon! This post is really inspiring and motivational, sometimes I find myself hiding behind the ‘being busy’ excuse to avoid actually working.. xoxo

  4. Fantastic Post! I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and busy lately but also like a chicken with my head cut off. After reading your post I decided I needed to say “no” to some things that looked fun but didn’t fit into my priorities. It’s not that I will never be able to do the book club or the extra work out class it’s that it doesn’t fit into my life right now.
    You’re posts always let me think on my life and i love that.

  5. Thank you for this fabulous post. It was a wonderful reminder of what my life used to be like and what I see around me all the time. I am lucky enough to have found my purpose and while i am not perfect, I have become far more successful at prioritising my time and am not longer filling my days being busy for the sake of being busy while at the same time achieving far more. It appears that there is almost a competitivness about who is the busiest amongst many of my friends and colleaagues.

  6. Shannon, your posts always hit the spot in my book. I love your insight on such topics and this one in particular comes at the perfect time.
    Thank you for all you do on this blog, it is greatly appreciated!

  7. I have been following your blog for awhile now. But I am just now realizing how relevant it is to my life. Might be my new fav. Kudos.

    xo Linds

  8. i have just discover your blog while browsing to revamp my wardrobe. this post is very inspiring without being glamourised too much. Thank you for the ‘chic’ idea.
    Have a lovely weekend.


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