Life can be busy. It seems like the older we get, the greater our responsibilities become. Our jobs, families, friends, and even our electronics and social media, are always vying for our attention. Sometimes it feels like we’re sprinting through life trying to keep up with everything.
Being busy isn’t a difficult status to attain. Whenever there’s a chunk of time, there are things that can fill it. The problem is, sometimes we focus on things that don’t actually add value to our lives. Many of us are busy, but we’re not productive.
It’s time to assess whether what you’re doing aligns with your mission
There have been times when I’ve completed a full workday without doing anything of value. Sure, I attended to a barrage of emails and performed menial tasks, but I didn’t tackle anything that put me on the path to advancement. It’s so easy to get stuck in a holding pattern.
Whenever this happens, I like to have some resources on hand to break the monotony and get back to doing purposeful work. One of my go-to reads is Benjamin Hardy’s If You’re Too Busy For These 5 Things: Your Life Is More Off-Course Than You Think.
If you’re too busy, you may need a course-correction
Even the most organized and driven people need to course-correct once in a while, and Hardy breaks down that thought process for his readers.
He starts by acknowledging that people today are too busy focusing on things that don’t matter in the long run. If we don’t stop to evaluate what we’re doing, we can fall into bad habits and stray from the path we’ve set up for ourselves.
Then, using a series of questions, Hardy explains the areas of our lives that usually get us into trouble. These include organization, environmental energy, financial energy, relational energy, health energy, spiritual energy, and time. The areas he focuses on have to do with our internal and external worlds. Hardy creates an invitation for you to reflect on yourself.
Finally, he sets out solutions to our most common pitfalls. The first thing we have to do is hit the pause button, and organize our lives. If you’ve ever been so busy that it seems like life is just piling up around you, you know the importance of this. Your chaotic inner world leads to external disorganization, which feeds more internal chaos. He argues that you have to stop and regroup when this happens.
Then, he recommends planning and investing in your future. He means this both in terms of financial health, personal health, and relationships, but also in terms of how you spend your time. If you don’t make a conscious effort to define who you are and why you do what you do, you won’t be able to make the most out of life. Vision setting is an important part of this. He states:
“Your vision should be based on your why, not so much your what.”
He further explains that what you do might change, but your why should remain constant.
He concludes by explaining the importance of tracking your work and moving toward your goals every day. When you don’t hold yourself accountable by keeping track of different metrics, it will be difficult to see when you are off course.
Observe metrics on your relationships, finances, and self-improvement. By keeping track of these areas, you’ll be able to accomplish more, and you’ll be more committed to the end result.
Moving toward your goals takes thought and effort every day. It’s easy to talk about what you want, but it’s another thing entirely to do the work. A famous children’s poem by Shel Silverstein concludes with this:
“But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas/ All Ran Away and Hid/ From One Little Did.”
There’s power in doing the work. Hardy reminds us that “the work” in this case is not busywork. To make progress bit by bit, you have to do the things that relate to your ultimate vision. He recommends doing these things early in the morning, before your energy is depleted by the day.
Why I keep coming back to this article
Re-reading this article is like a yoga instructor reminding you to come back to your breath. It’s the coach telling you to keep moving forward. It’s like saying a mantra over and over in your head in order to manifest a goal. It reminds us that under all the layers of social media, personal and professional labels, and menial tasks, there is a human being dreaming boldly. We have to stick to our core values and fundamentals or we risk getting lost in the shuffle.
The most successful people don’t wind up that way by sheer luck. Building a meaningful life–a life you love–requires planning. You have to monitor your progress and fine tune your methods to get where you want to go. You’ll have to think about how your personal circumstances, experiences, and priorities affect your what and your why.
Distractions are inevitable. We’re human beings subject to wants and frustrations. We take on responsibilities we don’t need to sometimes. We start labeling everything in our lives as equally important. It’s normal for this to happen, but we have to be able to step back and do some self-study to get back on course.
Takeaways from the article that you can use right now
All this talk does us no good unless we can commit to clearing the clutter from our lives to focus on what matters.
1. Write down your goals and think about your circumstances.Thinking about your goals is great, but when you write them down, it forces you to define exactly what you want.1Your written goals can remind you of your purpose when life gets complicated.
Making your goals more concrete can also help you think about circumstances in your life that could affect your outcomes. You’ll be able to anticipate bumps in the road instead of stumbling.
2. Trim the fat. Once you know what you want, you can remove things that don’t fall in line with your why. Think about it like this: The more time you spend on unrelated tasks, the less time you have to do the things that matter to you.
3. Get organized. Setting goals is only one part of the equation. If you want to achieve your goals, you’ll need to break them down into small, actionable steps. When you do this, you can also determine what metrics you will use to establish whether or not you’re making progress. By making a plan and monitoring how well you’re sticking to it, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed than when you fly by the seat of your pants.
4. Don’t be afraid to make changes. Remember that your plan and methods may have to change depending on what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you have encountered a new challenge, or you realized that your original actionable steps are not reasonable. Adjust your plan so that you don’t lose motivation. Like Hardy explained, what you’re doing can always change, but why you’re doing it should not.
Stay focused on your vision
The static of modern life can muddle our efforts and intentions until we find ourselves working without real purpose. It can happen without warning, and before you know it, you’re unhappy, unhealthy, and questioning your value.