We’re all busy, but a big problem happens when we mistake busyness for productivity. Just because we’re doing a lot, doesn’t mean we’re doing what’s important, or doing it well. So if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed with being “busy,” here’s a few important suggestions:
1. Tame your task list: Research indicates that half of our stress comes from all the things we need to do swirling around in our heads. Trying to remember what we need to do creates enormous mental anxiety, so take a few minutes and simply write it down. Make the list on paper or on your computer, but just jot everything down. The simple act of getting it all into a list lessens the stress of trying to remember everything. Once they’re down in a list, you can relax, and stop worrying about all the things you need to do. Paper is great, but the best apps allow you to even send emails directly to your task list, which gets you out of your inbox and helps you focus.
Some good ways to do it:
Unique Creative Planner
Remember the Milk
2. Plan your priorities: No one can tackle 20 things in a day, so take a moment to decide what’s really important. I recommend 3 priority tasks a day, but never more than 5 or 6. Make the last task you do today to plan those priorities for tomorrow, or at the latest, do it when you start your day. Just scan the list and pick what’s most important to accomplish today and focus on that list.
3. Push email and instant messages to the periphery of your daily schedule: Most of us are constantly checking our email and messages because it’s much easier to knock off a handful of emails than actually focus on more important tasks. It’s tough, but try to restrict checking your email to 2-3 times a day, and stop living out of your inbox. Remember – when you spend your time dealing with email, you’re spending your day responding to other people’s priorities, not yours.
4. Carve out time for deep work: “Deep work” is a term for uninterrupted time to focus on work without distractions. Close the door, turn off your social media, unplug from the Internet, and concentrate. In today’s distracted world, we’re quickly losing the ability to focus, so we have to be intentional and deliberate about making that time happen. Some terrific books that will help:
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox
5. And last, stop complaining about being busy! Everybody’s busy. The difference is, some people know how to channel that work into accomplishing great things, while others just complain about how busy they are. People who never stop complaining about being busy are often people seeking attention. Plus, when you constantly complain about being busy, you’re communicating to others that you’ve never figured out how to deal with your work, and that doesn’t make you look like a confident leader worth following.
Start controlling your day and stop letting your day control you.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.