Business Or Busyness

I had an interesting and engaging conversation with a business owner the other day. He was experiencing some challenges with time management and prioritization. As a mentor, I always ask the people I am assisting to take their time and elaborate on the specific issues they find challenging. Part of effective listening involves reading body movements and the choice of words and how they are enunciated. It reflects on emotions and trigger points.

In this case, my first perspective was that my colleague’s definition of busy needed to be developed upon. I asked him if it was business or busyness. He asked me what I meant. I said the main point I wanted to make is that your life is determined by the priorities or the pressures you make.

Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, once said, “Hurry is not ‘of the devil,’ it is the devil.” I’m not sure that he was theologically correct, but he sure was right psychologically speaking. If you’re living an overly busy, hurried, and hectic life, you may be wasting your life. That’s not to say that your schedule isn’t filled with good and important things. But you may be letting all those “good” things crowd out better things.

What about you? Are you living your life by default, letting your pressures control your life? Or are you living your life on purpose, using your priorities to create your life? One thing we all agree on is “life is short.” So, you’d better be living your life by your priorities rather than your pressures.

“If we are paying attention to our lives, we'll recognize those defining moments. The challenge for so many of us is that we are so deep into daily distractions and 'being busy, busy' that we miss out on those moments and opportunities that - if jumped on - would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.” Robin S. Sharma

How do you know which one is strongest in your life? If your primary personal relationship has suffered because of your business and busyness, then your pressures are taking precedence over your priorities. I’ve been there.

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to too many of these questions, it’s time to get your priorities in order and live accordingly.

  • Are you spending less time together as a couple or family than a year ago?
  • When you go out to dinner, do you “have to have” your cell phone with you?
  • When running errands on a Saturday, do you check your business voice mail?
  • Are you spending less time with your children than in the past?
  • When you go on vacation, do you stay in touch with your office?
  • Would you interrupt important personal time for a business issue of any kind?
  • Do you lack time for yourself, time to read, relax, travel, or engage in a hobby?
  • Do you feel like your life is out of balance?
  • Are you feeling increased stress lately?
  • Do you sometimes feel like “chucking” the whole thing and moving to nature?

They’re great questions, and I’m sure a lot of you will be rather humbled by your answers. You’ll probably feel a need to get your life and your business a little more back on track. If that describes you, let me suggest a few things you can do.

Effective focus

It’s the best place to start. Effectiveness is all about priorities or doing the right things. It’s life management. By contrast, efficiency is all about process or doing things right. That’s time management, and time management is also important. It’s just not the place to start.

Set priorities

Effectiveness requires that you set your priorities. You might even want to list everything you do and everything you think is important in life. Then rank those items in order of importance to you. Forget the Joneses.

Just decide what’s important to you. And keep trimming your list until you only have those things on the list that really matter. You can’t do everything, so you’ve got to decide what things are most important to you.

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” Thomas A. Edison 

Say no

You must say “no” to the bad things in life if you want the good things, and you must learn to say “no” to some good things if you want the better things in life. If you can’t say “no” or don’t say “no” to some of the demands and pressures that come your way, you don’t have any priorities.

“No” is a great word. In fact, it was probably the first word you learned to speak. Use it. It’s your life, your time, and your resources. If you keep saying “yes” out of guilt, fear, or a sense of obligation, if you don’t put limits on the use of your life, time, and resources, they will disappear. You don’t have to swing at everything they throw at you.

You may have to say “no” to some human in your life that suck the life out of you. They may be the constant whiners, complainers, and gripers who bring you down, or they may be the lazy ones who feign helplessness to get you to do their work for them. They may be employees, colleagues, or family members, and you may or may not be able to avoid them altogether. But you may decide to say “no” by limiting the time you spend with them.

I know it’s not easy to say “no.” Our culture pushes us in the opposite direction. However, if your priorities are clear, if you know what you want to say “yes” to, you’ll have the strength to say “no” when you need to.

Quality time

Embrace quality time. Take some time for you and you alone. You might decide to set aside fifteen minutes a day that is just for you. You send the kids to the neighbours, or close your office door, turn off the phone, and just relax, breathe, think, or dream.

That’s not a waste of time. In fact, it’s counter productive to always be doing something. When you try to fill your time with excess activity, you will feel tense, hurried, harassed or fretful, and that’s not how it feels when you’re focused primarily on your priorities.

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

When you embrace quality time, you schedule time for the special things and people in your life. And when those special times come, you focus only on them without distraction. You don’t let anything else get in the way.

You’re a smart person. So, don’t let your pressures get in the way of your priorities. You’re worth more than that.

Forward strategy  

I can hear some dissenters. Great in theory but how. Try this exercise.

List the ten things that are most important to you. Your list might include such priorities as:

  • physical health,
  • family relationships,
  • business success,
  • financial security, or
  • spiritual growth.

Then list the 10 areas in life where you spend the most time. Write down an estimate of how much time you spend on each area each week. For example, you may list such areas as:

  • Business – 40 hours,
  • sleep – 56 hours,
  • commuting to work – 5 hours,
  • golf – 4 hours, and
  • church – 1 hour.  

Compare your list of priorities and your list of time consumers. There should be some compatibility between what you say is most important and where you spend the most time. The more compatibility you have, the more you live by your priorities rather than your pressures.

Life is all about balance and getting that balance right is like cooking. You should add ingredients in just the right amount to get that dish tasting perfect. You may adjust, add to, or remove items each time you make that recipe until you get it just right. Such is our life's priorities. Your business is an important element in your life but so are your family, your partner, and your own personal time. It is an important, although not easy, thing to accomplish with all the disruptors and distractors we encounter. But if you can find the right mix, you’ll hit the sweet spot and move in the direction of Keeping Life Current.

Steve is the SBCN Community Mentor and an be reached at