The modern day lament of “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” seems to ring true with everyone I know. Parents, singles, business owners, employees, men, women, rich and poor. Basically anyone over the age of 12 is now conditioned to respond “So busy…but good!” when asked “How’s it going?”
I’ve personally been feeling the crunch lately and found myself falling into the trap of an exasperated sigh followed by the standard “SBBG” reply as my default. It’s kind of like when I don’t actually listen to the guy at the movie counter who says “Enjoy your movie!” and I say “You too! Ummm…I mean…have a good night…*awkwardly stumbles away*
I’m so deep in the mindset of “you’re SO BUSY” that I don’t even have time to actually listen to you. I am already prepped with my answer and it’s gonna prove how much stuff I have going on. You wanna compare? Let’s go. I just moved which means I’m ready to trump basically anything other than pregnancy, divorce, or death of a loved one that you want to throw at me.
But that’s the thing. It’s not a competition and yet for some reason we all seem to treat it like one. It’s not a new idea that “busy” is a status symbol. Imagine what you’d think if you asked someone “How’s it going?” and they said “Good. Just got so much free time right now I don’t know what to do with it all. I’ve taken up crocheting just because I can. Just trying to fill the day with something.”
Don’t you have something to do? Did you just get fired? Do you have a sugar daddy? What do you mean “free time?” I can barely make it home in time to walk the dog let alone learn a new skill. This guy is a weirdo.
Thinking on this collective bend towards SBBG I have to wonder: what do we get out of it? If we’re the ones who structure our lives (more or less) then why do we try and shove so much in? Is it because the clock is ticking on this mortal coil and we need to get as much in there as we can before we’re feeding the flowers?
Is it because we feel better about ourselves when we’re in a flurry of action? I know one of the worst things someone could call me is lazy (even though I’m constantly telling myself that I am just that and if left to my own devices I would gain 300 pounds, stop performing all non-mission-critical tasks and devolve into a tv-watching-hot-pocket-eating-mongoloid who laughs at his own farts).
Is it because we find it difficult to “justify” free time or self care?
Side note: I worked as a massage therapist for years in Washington, DC (one of the wealthiest areas of the country with some of the most overworked and stressed out people on the planet) and spa after spa and therapist after therapist had a difficult time getting clients to come in to take care of themselves even though they had the means to pay for it. An investment in ourselves often times feel like a luxury we can’t afford to explain to others.
Take the test.
Your coworker strolls in after their lunch break looking pretty blissed out. You ask her what’s got her all smiley and she tells you she just came back from a massage. What do you think? Probably a combination of “I’m so jealous, I wish I could get a massage” and “Seriously? Isn’t she worried the boss will find out? What is she thinking?!” (Never mind the multiple studies that suggest a weekly massage actually improves your productivity at work.)
So why keep this up? Why this overarching commitment to being super busy…but good? Sure, life takes some work. Sometimes you’ll pull long nights. Sometimes you may get a last minute project you weren’t planning on or something will go awry which means you’ve suddenly got to saddle up some extra responsibilities. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about this underlying urge to make sure we’re so busy we can barely think.
I think (see what I did there) that a lot of this is avoidance. That’ll look different for everyone and I’m not saying just because you’re busy means you’re hiding deep seated daddy issues. (You might be…I was) What I am saying is that this desire to fill every waking minute with something…(hello Candy Crush, Facebook and Tinder) keeps us from focusing on anything. We’re a culture of multi-taskers and research tells us time and time again that this is a productivity killer.
“But I’m different! I get so much more done because I’m a REALLY GOOD multi-tasker.”
Of course you are. Everyone thinks they’re amazing at it because if we’re good at that then we’re clearly so busy we have to be good at it and that feeds the original SBBG monster.
So if avoidance is part of the…Jesus, I just checked my phone in the middle of this sentence just to make sure I hadn’t missed an e-mail.
If avoidance is what we’re getting out of SBBG what are we protecting ourselves from? I think, by and large, we have gotten less adept at being with perceived “negative” emotions and feelings. If you’re a human (which I must assume you are unless your human has put this on for you because audiobooks make you think someone is in the house with you) then you feel negative emotions. You feel negative emotions everyday. You harbor negative feelings and thoughts. You judge others and feel simultaneously bad about it and self-righteous at the same time. At least I’m not that guy. Her skirt is ugly. He’s such a terrible employee. Ugh, what an awful mother.
We (generally) don’t speak these out into the world because of decorum and our desire not to be hit but we still think them. We also think them, to an exponential degree more, about ourselves. You’re such an idiot. Why can’t you get your shit together? You’re screwing it all up again. You’re a bad mother. You’re so lazy. You look gross. Your family sucks which means you suck. You wanna be an artist? That’s ridiculous. You’re ridiculous. Who could ever love this?
Oof. None of that feels good. We inflict those thoughts on ourselves all the time though…unless of course we’re busy.
“Let me stop you right there Strother. I don’t think the key to better time management is feeling my feelings.”
Don’t worry I’m not advocating (solely) for that.
With all of our multi-tasking and the noise we have in our life we don’t have to wait more than a couple of seconds before we can get some type of stimulations. Bored at work? You have millions of articles to read if you’d like. Standing in line got ya down? Hello there iPhone! Long commute putting you dangerously close to being alone with your thoughts? Nice to see you again radio or bluetooth! Thanks for saving me from myself.
What happens when we just stop? We often feel uncomfortable. Go ahead try it. Stop reading this and just sit. Take a deep breath and just hang out. Try it for 1 full minute. Set a timer on your phone now.
Seriously try it. I know you’ve already invested a lot of time into reading this you might as well get the full effect.
What was that like? A minute is a lot longer than you think it is. Did you make it through the whole thing? Did you say “screw this” and go back to the article because you didn’t want to “waste anymore time”? What’d you think about with a full uninterrupted minute to yourself? I’m not saying there’s anything you should have thought about just that it’s worth noticing what comes up.
Well congrats. You had your first introduction to meditation just now. How sexy.
Meditation is one of the tools I have (somewhat begrudgingly) worked into my daily schedule. I sometimes miss it and I’m certainly not perfect but after a month challenge (it’s how I do things) I really feel it when I don’t take the time.
We’ve veered off the “time-management” side of this article a bit. I promise there’s a point though!
We can’t really manage time. That’s an illusion. You can only direct your attention and your intention. What you are focusing on and what you’re committed to doing. These may wax and wane but the only thing we can actually manage are these two things. Time marches on whether or not we “manage it” (and we can of course get into the illusion of what is time and is it real and distance from a black hole relativity etc. etc. but I doubt that’s what you read this far for).
If you want “better time management skills” then focus on where you’re actually putting your attention.
(Full disclosure I wrote till about 8 paragraphs ago in a burst of productivity then put this article down for a good 2 months…irony not lost.)
Is it planning that trip you’ve been meaning to go on? Is it meditating? Is it finishing that article? Is it applying for a new job?Is it anything that moves you closer to the thing your intention? If you want to be good at “time-management” then get good at directing your attention.
Guess when you’re not good at that? When you’re overworked, stressed and exhausted.
It’s easy to say “I’m so tired I’m just gonna go crush some candy for a bit” when you haven’t slept or paid attention to your mental health. Meditate, work out, take a leisurely walk, take care of yourself. Your attention will fly away faster than flappy bird if you aren’t present.
So try it out. Be present. See what you can accomplish in just 15 minutes of fully present. No distractions. No smart phones. No office chatter. No articles. No “maybe I should schedule that meeting with Tom” daydream’s. Pick the thing you’ve been putting off. Commit to focus on it for 15 minutes no matter what. Even if nothing comes out of your brain you will focus exclusively on it and nothing else even if that means you sit and stare at a blinking cursor for 15 minutes.
I guarantee you will be closer to done and fulfilling your intention if you focus in your attention for even a short period of time.
Unicorns focus through their horn…find yours.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. -Robert Louis Stevenson
Alright Rob. I get it, but damn if that’s not harder than it sounds.
It’s an amazing little insight and I truly believe it but what about when you seem to be planting thousands of seeds and not getting any tomatoes? (If you hate tomatoes, sub in your favorite growing thing instead.)
It is tough to wake up every morning and head out into the field to plant seeds when day in and day out you go out to the proverbial garden and don’t find anything growing.
Did I plant them right?
Are these just bad seeds?
Is the land barren?
Maybe it’s me?
Should I have planted tomatoes in the first place? I hear carrots are doing super well…I should switch to carrots.
And on and on and on.
Starting a new business, changing your career, or taking on a huge new project can feel a lot like planting some busted up seeds in the ground for not a lot of return. It gets harder and harder each morning to go back out with that seed packet and spend your whole day tending a garden that isn’t growing (at least on the surface).
How do you keep planting when you’re not busy eating tomatoes? It’s going to be different for different people, but here are a couple places to look.
- Support – Seriously, you’ll need support. Whether it be from friends, a coach, a therapist, a business partner, or your dog, you will need someone else to be there when you feel like giving up. You will feel like giving up and you will want to tell the garden to go screw itself. When you’re in that place, find your support.
- Trust – Why is it we find it excruciatingly impossible to trust ourselves? You said you were going to do this and damn it you’ll find a way. If this is truly what you want and the thing you’re aching for then you will find a way to do it. Trust that this is all part of your process and you’re not screwing it up, you’re gathering data on what works and what doesn’t. The important thing to remember is that ALL of that is valuable…and in that vein:
- Fail – *Gasp* FAIL? The word that strikes terror into the hearts of any entrepreneur. How in the world could you be telling me to go fail? You’re the worst coach ever. I get it, you do not want to fail, but it’s almost a guarantee that you will in some respect at some point along the way. This isn’t a reflection on you, and rather than being “the moment that ruined it all” you could take it as “the moment I learned that this doesn’t work and that made me and my business better”. Here’s a pretty wonderful infographic from Brandon Gailee about 4 companies you’ve probably heard of who didn’t let a little bit of failure get in their way.
- Persist – I get it. That damn garden is a barren wasteland of dust and broken dreams, and it feels pretty stupid to get up and toss seeds on it again after months of nothing. It is a long game, and the people who succeed are the ones who continue on in the face of an empty garden because they know they can do it.
- Develop – Keep a constant eye on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Invest in yourself, your business, your people and your products. Keep learning, growing, reading and working. It’s important to be honest about “what’s so” in this business and make decisions from there rather than “what should”. Be flexible, be resilient, and most of all be passionate, because without passion you’ll leave that garden before it has a chance to take root.
What’ve you got growing in your garden?
PS: Unicorn horns make for some pretty fantastic hole digging tools. You wanna plant seeds? A unicorn has you covered.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/furtwangl/4033069325/”>furtwangl</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Oofta. My feels are all engaged. Just watch the video.
I love kid president. If you haven’t caught some of his videos be sure to check out the Soul Pancake YouTube channel here!
Bits that I particularly loved.
“We can all be awful sometimes but we can all also be awesome. It’s time to be more awesome.”
It’s easy to beat ourselves up…we’re easy targets. Why not let all of that go and figure out how to be more awesome?
“History is made by ordinary people. Ordinary people like you…and me…and that guy.”
It’s easy to forget that celebrities, thought leaders, and Abraham Lincoln are all real people just like us. You can make history, you just have to decide you want to.
“Life is school and ya gotta show up.”
Step one is show up. Figure out where you need to be and go to there.
“They also see the person that we can all become someday.”
You gotta have someone in your life who can tell you how awesome you are. Teachers, coaches, partners, friends or even your dog because for whatever stupid reason we all keep trying to convince ourselves otherwise. You’re awesome. We see it. Tag, you’re it.
So ask yourself today…
What are you teaching the world?
I recently read the book Virtual Freedom by author and entrepreneur Chris Ducker. The book focuses on learning how to work with virtual assistants which is something I’ve recently begun doing. If you haven’t investigated it as an option for you in your personal and business life, it is definitely worth looking into. (There will be a post here about it soon so keep an eye out and the service I’m using is called Uassist.me and you can check out my testimonial about them in the resource page!)
In the book he coins the phrase “Superhero Syndrome” which basically encompasses our (often times ridiculous) desire to do it all ourselves. Somewhere along the way we’ve picked up this idea that by getting support or (even worse) asking for help is a sign of weakness or an admission that we’re not good enough to do the job on our own. While I do love the independent spirit it’s restrictive thinking like this that often keeps us from reaching our goals.
Say you need a website but know nothing about coding and even the idea of using one of the template sites like Squarespace or Wix gives you heart palpations. Well you can spent hours ripping your hair out and rending your garments trying to figure it out and end up with a meh website or you can get some help. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing to make it for you. It’s still YOUR website. Find an intern who has design experience and make that one of their projects. Get your nephew who’s better at computers than you to do it for the cost of a trip to Disneyland (AND YOU GET TO GO TOO).
A somewhat more charged example of Superhero Syndrome is being unable to ask for or receive emotional support. Some of us may be wizards at getting tech support, administrate support or support hosiery (is that a thing still? Do spanx count?) but when it comes to going for emotional support we just don’t know how to ask. It’s easy to feel like a total screw up when you’re talking about something as personal as your thoughts and feelings. The old saying of “it takes a village” applies even after the child has grown up.
Humans are hardwired for connection and we crave the feeling of safety, belonging/love and self-esteem/mattering. If we’ve got some underlying emotional issue that is keeping us from feeling any of those 3, we’re not going to be able to perform at our best. People claim to be on the hunt for their peak performance. They devour lists of productivity tips and tricks while working with tomato timers and site blockers to keep them on the path to being a personal powerhouse. It’s a sexy image too right. The self-made man. The executive mom who kicks ass in the boardroom, the bedroom and the babies room. We all have these ideas of these super human people (who we must be unlucky enough to not know any personally) who don’t need anyone else. They do it all on their own and they do it effortlessly.
If you could pull back the curtain a la Wizard of Oz style you’d probably hear something like “Pay no attention to the army of men behind the curtain!” No man is an island…well at least not successful and emotionally balanced ones. It can be extremely difficult and confronting to ask for help or find support. It seems a bit silly as we all crave the feeling (“I wish I could just let someone else handle it for a couple of days.”) but we talk ourselves out of it. “I’m just too busy.” “How would they get along without me?” “No one else knows how to do this right.” “I could never afford someone to help with this.” “What if I did all this work and then someone else gets the credit?” “I wouldn’t even know what to do with free time!” Time to get rid of your excuses and drop this superhero syndrome.
Start practicing letting go of non-mission critical tasks. Delegate if you have a team at work. Sure you could do it better (you’re just so smart!) but can they do it well enough? Hire a maid to help you handle things at the house so you can spend that extra time recharging. That mental recharge may be just what you need to end up with that big fat raise which suddenly makes a maid (and a virtual assistant, and a therapist and a personal trainer and a coach and an intern) accessible to you 10 times over. Find a therapist who can help you work through your past emotional issues so you aren’t constantly dragging that all over with you. It’s exhausting. Hire a coach to help keep you accountable to your goals and really start moving towards the life and career you want. You may feel like you should do it on your own, but how has that been working out so far?
Support is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being a bad-ass. Go get the support you need. Make it happen.