Are you too busy being busy?

Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed
— Saint Francis de Sales

Everyone is so busy these days. I have to book weeks in advance to catch up with friends and family. We say things like “I have so much on at the moment”, or “things are just crazy.”

There is nothing wrong with being busy if what you are busy adds value to your life. Such as starting a business or being prime minister. It is when we are busy just for the sake of being busy that is bad for us.

And you know what? How busy we are is often our own fault. Before you say how busy you are, first ask yourself how many hours a week you waste. You may realise you are not so busy after all. Instead, just not optimising your time.

Yes, our boss may be asking us to work crazy hours, but that is just part of the week. Our boss isn’t asking us to a throw an elaborate birthday party for our 2-year olds that they won’t remember in 10 years. Our boss isn’t asking us to constantly check our phones for news, events and alerts. Our boss isn’t telling us to upgrade our house or kitchen or spend hours at Kmart on a Sunday afternoon.

We can’t blame our work for all our busyness. For a lot of us, we spend more time outside of work than at work. How we spend that time is our decision and our life has been designed by none other than ourselves. If we live in a way that we have to spend 50 hours at work for their money, then maybe we need to find a higher paying job or lower our expenses. If we have a large house with a large section where we spend all weekend maintaining it maybe we should look at smaller options if possible.


How do we get so busy?

Life used to be a lot slower. It is speeding up because we now have more things to do. We have more choices of how to spend our time and to spend our money. There is just more of everything and a lot of us want it all.

With so many choices we are compelled to do this, or upgrade that. We have easier access to everything as well. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media or news articles and realise you have wasted an hour? What have we really achieved? I am guilty of this, but for some reason I go back for more. This adds no value to my life at all, but because I have now wasted that hour I will just be busier later having to catch up on other stuff.

In other words, we probably could be better at optimising our time. We are busy because we are wasting our time on things that don’t matter.

A common scenario may look like this: Work 8am to 5pm 5 days a week, come home and cook and eat dinner, then blob on the couch for a couple of hours watching TV or scrolling our phones. One weekend day will be dedicated to housework, leaving only one day a week for leisure if we are lucky. Sound familiar?

What if instead of blobbing on the couch for two hours after work each night we did some housework then? That 10 hours during the weekdays would then free up the whole weekend for leisure, not just one day. This is what I mean by optimising time. I think we are busier than we ought to be, but people tend to wear busy like a badge of honour. We complain about being busy, but really it is bragging about how important we are. Being busy is bragging disguised as a complaint. When we are busy we feel important. We feel valued. When we aren’t busy we feel more useless and unimportant. This is why it is difficult to free ourselves from the busyness conundrum.


Why is being busy a problem?

If our minds become too active for too long on too many different things, we lose our focus, get tired and worn out. This can lead to more serious health issues such as stress and depression. Our quality of work and life can suffer. When are too busy, instead of doing 4 things well, we may be doing 8 things poorly.

Having so many things on the go and doing them with poor quality results in a constant feeling of incompleteness. Not being able to get anything done. It is hard to carry out things to completion, or if we do it is not to the standard we wanted.

With our finances we can’t afford to make too many poor decisions for too long or we will never get ahead. If we are leading such busy lives and all of a sudden need to learn about investing our money, we are probably not going to give this vital decision the time and attention it deserves. Resulting in a poorly researched investment, and potentially significant losses. The same can be said for any financial decision.

Finally, being 'busy' all the time doesn't give us a chance to slow down, think and reflect. This is such an important part of life that we often forget. When I am at my most peaceful is when I come up with my best ideas. I have made some major life decisions when in this reflective state. I decided to leave an employer that was overworking me, whilst on a two week summer holiday. I decided to start a business and follow my passion whilst on a 5 day vacation.

A lot of people reflect at New Years how their life is going and what needs to be done to move forward. Why do this once a year? We should be analysing our lives more frequently so we can get closer to our dreams. 


How do we break the cycle of busy?

Set goals
List out priorities in life from most to least important. Everything that helps us achieve our goals needs to remain a central part of our life. With clear goals we don’t waste our time on things that don’t help us. With goals, our lives have direction and meaning that doesn’t need to be filled with fluff. It is already fill enough with essence.

Learn to say no
We can’t please everyone so stop trying so hard.

Slow down
Take a breath, maybe even meditate. Some of my best ideas have come when I have broken out of the busy cycle. When I step away from everything I can tend to see things a bit more clearly. If you can’t handle one hour of time away from screens not doing much without getting jumpy and impatient, you may have a problem with needing to be ‘busy’.

Be grateful
Grateful people are happy people. When thankful for what we have we don’t tend to want much more or seeking instant gratification.

A lot of time can be saved when we automate our lives. This can range from automating our banking, our investments, or good habits. The less we have to think about things, the more we can focus on other things.

Become more selfish
Obviously not all the time, because giving is a good thing. I am just talking about some of the time. We shouldn’t feel bad about putting our own needs first on occasion. If we neglect ourselves, we are the only one that has to deal with the consequences.

Become efficient with your time
Wake up earlier to get more done in a shorter time. Listen to educational podcasts on the drive to and from work. Make ordered lists so there is no back tracking. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean we are productive. Do more per hour, so you can then do less per hour later.

Share the load
We should all be able to delegate in busy times. Everyone in the household should be contributing.

Become financially independent
When we save enough money not to have to work again we can free up a lot of time. We can focus on things we want to do, rather than have to do. We could go to part time. Since we aren’t reliant on income now, our time is free to use how we want.


Final Thoughts

Life is about choices. We choose how to fill our days. Don’t fill it with crap.

By simplifying our lives to just a few very important things we can make much better quality decisions with less effort, time and stress. We can create more free time to create, be spontaneous, and do as we please. We all need that time to recharge and relax, doing things we can’t get enough of.

For some of us it is not easy to say no, or to put ourselves first. But remember your life and finances need your attention. If we can save enough money to create financial freedom, then we can open up a whole lot of time. Money is time. Once we have enough money we can work as much or as little as want.

Some things in life we have to do. Such as work, parent duties and housework. Even so, we can still find ways to simplify our lives and slow down. Automation and efficiency are key. Put the cell phone away, don’t take on too many non-essential tasks, and don’t be in such a hurry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not being busy. Your health (mental and physical) and finances will thank you.



The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here