How to Stop Being Busy & Start Being Purposeful

I performed a secret experiment this week.

I posed the standard “Hi, how are you?” question to 10 people and took note of their responses. No fewer than 7 of them responded with “I’m so busy right now” or “crazy busy” or “I’m so busy I can't even watch Netflix” or some other version of the “busy and stressed” status (as if there's such a thing as being too busy for Suits!). 

But that’s what it’s become, hasn’t it? A status to strive for. Like if we’re not busy we’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.

How to Stop Being Busy and Start Being Purposeful

Instead, we should get busy trying to understand our purpose so we can make a real contribution to the world in a way that 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.

Frankly, I found it truly saddening to hear the 'busy' responses from those I observed. Because I took them to mean that these folks are not enjoying or even experiencing their lives, let alone the spirit of the season.

Now it could be that some of these people actually revel in whatever it is they’re doing that makes them so busy. These fortunate souls are likely experiencing a state of 'flow' and feeling super creative and productive. They’re in the zone. It's all good. 

Yet either way - whether busy because you’re in flow or busy because you’re overworked and overwhelmed - we should stop glorifying it and making it a status to reach for. 'Purposeful' instead of 'busy' should be the new end game. 

Here are ways in which I think we can do that:

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 favourite 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. Bill Burnett and Dave Evans help you think through it in Designing Your Life

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.

Are you ready to stop being busy and start being purposeful?  You’re in the right place, and I’ve made it simple for you.

Join my FREE 7-Day Simplicity Challenge and set up your spaces, systems, and habits so that you become more efficient and effective. After just one week the small changes you’ve made will gain back time and also energy, clarity, and peace. It will be the kick-start you need to design a life of intention and purpose.

You'll get 7 days of emails with simple but effective action steps that will take you no longer than 30 minutes a day. You'll also receive bonus e-guides and worksheets to make it easy for you to make the shifts necessary to live a well-designed life. By the end of the week, you'll have gained back double your investment in time spent on the course, plus be well on your way to reaping the benefits of a simplifed home, office and lifestyle. 

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how to stop being busy and start being purposeful