You’re Not As Busy As You Think

We are often our own worst enemy.

In many ways, I’m writing this post to myself. I had a very interesting conversation with my shrink the other day, wherein which he was calling me out on some of my less-attractive behaviors. He said to me, “Maybe you don’t do those things because you think you’re too busy and too needed elsewhere to do them.” (In this instance, the “things” were all the tasks I can’t seem to master in life, like paying bills on time.)

What’s interesting is that the conversation resonated with a few others I’d had. Jacqueline had asked me something about why I produce as much content as I do. Julien Smith had asked me why I still blog daily, and whether it was worth any more or less than writing weekly, or even less frequently.

YOU’RE NOT AS BUSY AS YOU THINK

Again, this post might be me writing to myself. See how you feel. I think that I equate “busy” with the “need to be visible.” I create so much material because I have lots of ideas and I want to share them. I want to share them because I love feedback. I crave feedback. And at a very base level, I just want to be “seen.”

Most humans want this. The Zulu say “Sawubona” as a greeting. It translates to: “I see you.” I recognize that you are there. It’s a powerful want for a lot of us, to be seen, to be heard.

But it can also be another kind of addiction. Addiction to feedback hampers a lot of other valuable pursuits. How often do you rush to see if anyone’s commented on your Facebook status or retweeted your witty tweet? How many times do you check on your blog to see whether you need to answer a comment? Ask yourself quite honestly what purpose this activity serves.

BUSY IS A GREAT SALVE

If you’re busy, you must be important. If you’re busy, people need you. Humankind’s greatest need: to feel wanted. If you’re busy, you’re not the loser you worry you might be. If you’re busy, maybe you’ll crack the code on what people will pay for faster.

But busy isn’t the same as “fulfilling a purpose” or “walking a path.” Seeking feedback excessively means that you’re not comfortable sitting with your own thoughts, and that you’re not comfortable with the question of whether what you’re creating is of value in your own mind.

Busy lets us try and not focus on experiences that hurt us or feelings that cause us some suffering. Busy is a fast-moving horse and we can’t really see the individual flower for all the patterns of the field. (This is a mangling of a Chinese proverb.)

GET LESS BUSY

My first steps towards becoming less busy were all very simple and tactical. I set my phone to do the fewest possible notifications. I get a warble when someone texts me. Besides that, I don’t get a notification when email arrives, when someone comments on a social network, or any of those. And guess what? I’m still responsive. I’m still valuable.

I did the same to my computers. I shut off notifications to as many applications as I could. And then I did one more. I closed my email software. I closed my social network windows. I shut all the windows and applications down on my computer except the one or two that I needed to work on my project at hand. Oh, and I started keeping my projects at hand front and center so that I knew where I should be spending my time.

I got less busy in my public life, too. I don’t go to all the events. I very willingly skip the biggest events in my industry, because they are too full of busy and not full of business. It’s great to see friends. But I can do that in other contexts. If I’m at an industry event, it’s because I have business there.

ACCEPT BEING INVISIBLE

This is the hardest part for me. I continue to maintain the fantasy that if I don’t blog every day, if I don’t tweet several times a day, if I don’t publish something interesting to Google+ a few times a day, then people will forget me and move on to other sources of information. In some ways, I know this to be true. We are a consumption society, hungry to click to the next thing and the thing after that.

But is that my lead generation model? Are the people who readily consume my blog and tweets and posts often my clients? No. They are quite often colleagues in similar lines of work. They are my eclectic and beloved mishmash of people from varied lives who think they are the only non-marketer reading my blog. They are people from the past who still can’t believe where I’ve gone with my life. That’s who reads my blog.

The people who buy something from me are often not quite aware of who I am, and they simply stop by, see the abundance of proof that I must be pretty good at what I do, and then they hire me for some project or another. Does that audience require daily interaction? No. In fact, I suspect they would loathe that. They want to know that I can help them succeed in adding business value. That isn’t measured in number of blog posts or tweets to my knowledge.

It is evidently okay to be a little more invisible. I’m willing to practice this. It’s scary, but doable.

HOW BUSY ARE YOU?

Don’t feel like you have to answer that with me. But ask yourself that question. Are you really overwhelmingly busy? Beyond a few deadlines and maybe some self-inflicted procrastination, how busy are you? And what is that “busy” doing to improve your lifestyle right now, and your business in the coming years?

What if you got some of that time back? What would you do with it? How would you spend an extra four hours a day? Four. Hours. Think about that. That might just well be the cost of busy. Where would you spend yours?

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  • http://twitter.com/Gldnamby Amber Ricchetti

    Thank you for the reminder that quantity of contribution isn’t the same as quality. And busy doesn’t always mean important. :-)

  • Julie

    What a nerve you have hit here. Thank you for sharing so personally about the roots of your busy-ness. This is a topic very dear to my heart. We are so focused as a culture right now on filling our schedules (and our homes) as full as possible so that we don’t have space to hang out with ourselves, our loved ones, to fully enjoy all that we have in the world. The busy-ness is keeping us separated from our truth. That we are all really OK if we just stopped to notice.

  • Julie

    What a nerve you have hit here. Thank you for sharing so personally about the roots of your busy-ness. This is a topic very dear to my heart. We are so focused as a culture right now on filling our schedules (and our homes) as full as possible so that we don’t have space to hang out with ourselves, our loved ones, to fully enjoy all that we have in the world. The busy-ness is keeping us separated from our truth. That we are all really OK if we just stopped to notice.

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  • http://twitter.com/BigHeadAsian Justin Moore-Brown

    One of my favorite posts from you thus far Chris.  Recently I’ve found myself saying that I’ve been busy doing this and that lately but your article has given me a reason to stop and evaluate what type of busy that is.

    Thanks for throwing the red flag for me to stop and review what I’ve been doing!

  • Nick

    A few months back in a sales training session at work, the speaker only talked for about fifteen minutes – his big point was simple – invest your time versus spend it. Since then I’ve gotten a personal cell without work email, cut in half the magazines I subscribed to, eliminated well over half of the people I followed on twitter, and more.

    Just as you write, you’re not as busy as you think and busy doesn’t equal purpose.

    Great post you wrote.

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  • http://twitter.com/JoeDuncko Joe Duncko

    I get into the same exact position every so often. I also get into the opposite: I feel like I have nothing to do, despite having a whole list on my keyboard (the best place to keep a to do list for a techie and writer). I’m trying desperately to find a balance, but it’s difficult. I want to constantly be engaged, but at the same time have time to myself and to my personal hobbies (like spending time with friends).

  • Bethany Bresland

                Hello, my name is Bethany, I don’t feel quite like you but I do know that this behavior is slightly out of character for any person, unless diagnosed with social, depression difficulties ect.
    I am quite busy in my life at the moment as I am studying AS levels… however the time don’t half ‘fly by’ sometimes it feels like I’m going to be at this stage forever though and it’s not great. Take it from my point of view your life may seem empty at the moment but as you get older you’re more likely to get into normal adult life as most people do when you grow up. That stands for even if you’re older than 25 or whatever. Everybody goes through stages like this. Perhaps you should consider trying to enrol a hobby? There are many which could capture you’re time wisely. You seem to show signs of insecurity in your text, you want to be invisible? Do you feel like this all the time, or just in doses?
                    I think that you’re going through a confusion part of you’re life, but it’s not the end of it as you say. As you get older things will only get more confusing; however it is your job to continue at you’re own pace. As for time, we cannot refund parts of our past, but we can look forward to the worlds coming series and know that we have plenty of time to do the things we often want to.
                    I don’t go out a lot, which I am not proud of; I have a lot of social difficulties which does restrict me from going to events, parties. I’m often inside reading books. – Joys of asperger syndrome.
                    Feeling busy is yes, important, but just because you’re not busy doesn’t make you unimportant. Can you understand me? Briefly you’re going through a stage in life where you can’t look forward and it’s looking very dark, but, my friend, only you can pull yourself back into happiness.  
                    Hope all goes well, Beth.

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  • http://onlinekansascity.blogspot.com CD

    I used to thin the busier I was the more productive I was. In reality, after listening to a few, I’m learning to be more productive doing less.

  • http://www.shaboominc.com/blog Molly Gordon

    The people I most admire in business and in life are those who have the time to go deep into something. Who can invest a week creating a truly awesome video (Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics, for example) or who have the bandwidth to not only consume content but engage with it. 

    I’d rather do less and engage more deeply with my clients and students–not to mention friends and family–than do more with less depth. It’s in the spaces that we find the greatest meaning.

  • http://twitter.com/Sh3Angel Sheana Silvertooth

    Thanks for being transparent and honest.  And kicking me in the teeth!  But I’m thinking that I’m in good company so I don’t feel so bad!  

  • http://twitter.com/MmPurple Marchell Mascheck

    I’m part of your mishmash.  I admit it.  I always get something from reading your newsletters or posts.  You wrote this to me, but, the thing is, I’m not sure that I’m ready for invisible.  I THRIVE on building relationships.  I don’t make friends at the first meeting, but I build great relationships–especially for business and over the long run.  Invisible…I’ll have to mull that one over, let it sink in, then work on making that change.  Hmmm.  Thank you Chris, I didn’t have enough stress for the Holidays!  :-)

  • Adele Uddo

    Hi Chris, I began writing a blog 12 months ago to push myself OUT of creative invisibility, and what a difference a year makes…. I not only feel more liberated since I’ve come out of hiding, I’ve met some wonderful people. Funny though, I now notice myself becoming obsessively aware how “seen” I am by my new friends…. Thanks for the great post, I’ll be sure to tune in more often!

  • Betsy

    Wonderful.  Thank you.  I needed to hear that and share it.

  • Betsy

    Wonderful.  Thank you.  I needed to hear that and share it.

  • http://templates.motocms.com/ Tina

    Thanks for touching this vital theme, Chris. From my own experience I can say that proper planning is the most efficient remedy for not being busy 24/7.

  • http://bullsprig.com/ Reno Web Design

    Distractions are the worst. I’ve found looking at and answering email twice a day really helps. I also keep my cell phone in another room, away from my workstation. People get annoyed because I don’t answer texts right away, but they’re getting used to it.

  • Jkyle

    I see you Chris Brogan. I see you there. 

  • Aaa

    “If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.” 

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  • http://www.zip-repair.org/ repair a zip

    Thanks a lot. You article is very informative.

  • Jess

    Coming from a new young professional i found this very inspiring and true. Thank you!

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