How to Stop Being Busy & Start Being Purposeful

The standard answer to "Hi, how are you" has now become “Busy!”

When did that happen and why do we consider that an acceptable - even positive - status? 

And that’s what it’s become, hasn’t it? A status to strive for. Like if you’re not busy you’re not accomplishing enough or important enough or trying hard enough.  

It seems that our expectations as a culture are to drive forward hard and fast, so we can be productive and feel valued and fulfilled. As individuals, though, we eventually find that the hustle catches up with us and all we have to show for our busyness is stress and exhaustion.

Understanding our purpose and making a real contribution to the world is what truly fulfills us. But we’ve become so accustomed to doing more and having more that we’ve failed to notice that we’re living according to someone else’s purpose instead of our own. Our priorities and daily efforts are misaligned.

Of course, some people may be busy with very positive, purposeful work. They're in flow, in the zone, and all is good. 

But whether you're busy because you’re in flow or busy because you’re overworked and overwhelmed, I believe we should stop glorifying it and making it a status to reach for. Eventually, everyone burns out if we're always in busy mode, instead of going in peaks and valleys and enjoying space in between. 

Here are some ways to stop glorifying and being so busy. 

1.      Ban the word “busy”.

Pick another word or phrase that will become your standard greeting to others. When asked “how are you?” respond with “I’m getting so much done right now” or “Everything is flowing well” or “I’m enjoying the day” or, as one of my favorite motivation gurus, Zig Ziglar, always said, “better than good”.

2.      Accept that not being busy is ok.

Understand that being busy in and of itself may actually be limiting your potential for real contribution and growth. Being busy with the wrong activities costs you the time you could be spending on other more meaningful things. Or on doing nothing at all, which is also important from time to time.

3.      Stop avoiding yourself.

Some people find themselves filling up their calendars, social media feeds, and credit cards because they don’t want to face time alone with themselves. If this is you, put on your big kid boots and jump in. Face the silence and listen to the beauty that comes from within, and see the beauty that surrounds you. Stop chasing stuff and make time for the meaningful.

4.      Revisit your essentials and make a choice. 

Carve out a chunk of still, quiet time to remember your personal mission and goals, and from there determine the essential activities you need to accomplish them. Revisit your schedule to ensure that most of the time slots are for your essentials. Busyness is a choice, as is intentional living.

5.      Track what’s going well and speak positively about it.

Instead of always focusing on what you don’t have time for, write down all of the things you accomplished and give thanks for them. Feel good about accomplishing important things that align with your goals and add to your wellbeing or your family’s wellbeing. Talk positively about what’s been going well and you’ll not only see more positive things come to you but you’ll spread positive energy to others too.

6.      Intentionally design your life.

Don’t let others fill up your calendar and your life for you. Design the life you want to live, aligned with your own values and purpose. This might feel overwhelming or even impossible at the moment, but taking small incremental steps toward living intentionally instead of reactively will move you toward a conscious life in less time than you think.

7.      Learn to say “no”.

And to say yes to things that matter. As author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it “The biggest, trickiest lesson is learning how to say no to things you do want to do so that you can do a few great things that really matter.”

8.      Create space.

Space is where the good stuff happens. Space in your daily routine for solitude allows creativity and strategy to spring forth. It allows you to hear the small, still voice within. It allows you to notice inspiration floating so closely you can reach out and grab it. Space in your environment works the same way.  Simple surroundings that elicit positive feelings and energy, minimize distraction, and encourage rest and revitalization will support a rich life, not an overwhelmed one.

9.      Gain back time.

By learning to become efficient and effective instead of busy, we save time in our days and suddenly gain the space we know we need. We become more efficient by setting up our spaces in functional and supportive ways. We use technology for our advantage, not for distraction, and we employ strategic systems to do less but better.