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Productivity / Time management tips

4 ways to stay on the right side of ‘busy’

A busy business is good. It's when you cross over into ‘too busy’ mode and have no time to do the things that add real value that these four strategies come in handy.

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Hey, how are you?

Do you remember the days where you’d respond to this question with ‘Good thanks’?

Or even ‘Can’t complain’.

Me neither. These days I always answer with ‘Busy.’

Or worse, ‘Too busy’.

Being too busy feels overwhelming and unproductive, especially for small business owners trying to do it all. We become consumed in day-to-day admin: emails, invoices, phone calls and other to-do-list-tasks, not to mention problems we didn’t create or things beyond our control that require immediate action.

Meanwhile, the ‘wish list’ of more strategic or rewarding business improvement projects continues to be put off day after day.


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You can’t ignore those critical business tasks that keep the lights on and the wheels turning – they’re non-negotiable. But if your time is always spread thin, the ability to achieve larger goals or projects becomes harder and creates more anxiety.

Time is the one universal commodity everyone has in equal measure: we all have the same 24 hours available to us each day. Being ‘too busy’ is a sign we’re prioritising too many things and maxing out those available hours in an ineffective manner.

"Being ‘too busy’ is a sign we’re prioritising too many things and maxing out our available time in an ineffective manner."

So the next time you’re about to tell someone how busy you are, stop and ask ‘What does my busyness say about me? Am I in control, or is my busyness controlling me?’ And if it is, try the four things I revert to when I find myself in a similar position:

1. Reclaim your time for your priorities

If you don’t organise and manage your own time, someone else will.

If I don’t make time for the things I consider important, and commit to making these things happen, I quickly find myself caught up in other people’s priorities.

Instead of trying to achieve many things at once, I try to focus on fewer but more valuable projects. I ask myself, ‘What stuff do I actually want to be ‘busy’ doing right now?’ The stuff that doesn’t make the cut gets cut or pushed further down the list. I also try to plan ahead and manage deadlines so I’m not constantly juggling the urgent and overdue.

2. Invest your time and energy wisely

Think of your time as a valuable commodity rather than a renewal resource.

Many overloaded people are often doing the wrong tasks for their skill set and are spending too much money or time to complete them. When I find myself in this mode, I get busy delegating them to a specialist or a more cost-effective, time-effective resource.

Similarly, I make time for reading and researching widely, because I know how my curiosity feeds my creativity and how valuable fresh ideas are to my business.

3. The power of No

Most people want to say ‘No’, but they just don’t know how. And they are chronically busy as a result. If you want to achieve anything significant, you must learn to say No, and say it often. Start by defining your goals and identifying the steps you need to take to achieve them. When you make that first decision about your #1 priority, all other options become irrelevant and are instantly eliminated. ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ then become driven by logic, not emotion. With practice, you’ll quickly spot the opportunities that move you closer to your goal, while saying ‘Thanks but no thanks’ to the ones that don’t.

4. Refuel with sleep

Sleep is usually the first thing that gets de-prioritised when we get really busy. Ironically, this is when it should actually be given higher importance. Without sleep, we simply don’t function as well so depriving yourself of sleep in order to maximise your productivity is oxymoronic.

The fastest way to get off the ‘too busy’ train is to rest, relax and take time away from getting stuff done, so you’re able to inject fresh energy and focus into your work.

To wrap up

There’s nothing wrong with being busy. But there is a smart way to be busy. It comes down to whether you exercise choice and control over the projects and tasks you take on. If you want other people’s deadlines and emergencies to stop driving your days, define your goals and commit yourself to them. This will deliver the best possible returns for your time, energy and focus.

Matthew White

is director of Ergoflex Australia, an online retailer of premium quality memory foam mattresses. As well as helping Australians get a better night's sleep, Matthew is a marketer, sleep blogger, father of four and home renovator.

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