Time And Punishment: How To Be Less Busy And Get Your Life Back

*this article was originally posted on forbes.com By Neale Godfrey

“I’m so busy…”

“I wish I could get to that, but I’m too busy….”

“I’ll do that, when I finish this…”

“Mom, I’m really busy, I only have five minutes to talk to you…”

“Kids, you know I’m busy. What do you want? Make it fast…”

“I know the Strategic Plan is important, but I’m really busy with this other thing right now…“

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? What happened to us? How did we end up living like this?

Time is a limited resource; do you really want to waste it? Omid Safi, a professor at Duke University, wrote a powerful article, “The Disease of Being Busy.” I’ve mentioned it before, but this is a topic that bares more examination, because it has taken over our lives and has made use lose sight of what we value at home and in the workplace. He notes that “…these destructive habits start early, really early.” I’m not sure how we ended up this way because we have made ourselves victims to this syndrome. When did we lose the human quality of really “being there?”

It’s interesting that there are so many books about the subject of time management. Do we spend more of our valuable hours reading about it than actually practicing the sage advice? Maybe. But, we do recognize this as a problem or dilemma we want to address. Let’s not fall victim to being “too busy” to be productive at work and present at home.

Do something about it… now. Here’s how:

Delegate:

Stop doing everything yourself. Entrepreneurs (and Moms) are most guilty of this. If you haven’t hired the right people to do the job, then that is the problem. You can also sub-contract out to experts who can fill in on the tasks that are needed at the moment.

Give Up Perfection:

Build the airplane while it’s flying. As Entrepreneur.com put it, “Imagine if companies such as Uber and Airbnb waited to expand into new markets until they perfected all of the working components of the business. They would still be sitting there wasting time, scratching their heads, waiting for something that wasn’t ever going to happen. Look how fast both companies have grown because they were extremely productive.”

Try To Disconnect:

Note that I started with “Try.” I’m a victim to my screen. I confess that I have perfected the “glance” at my emails. Commit to turning off your devices when you need to be present. My kids got me a bracelet that said, “I’m In The Moment.” That hit home for me.

Plan Interruptions Around Your Schedule:

That means, coordinate “Office Hours” with your employees when they can come into your office to talk. Brown-bag lunches once a week are perfect for this. See if you can set a regular schedule for that each week, so employees can count on that face-time with you (By the way, it may be just that. Skype is great.)

Advice To Skip:

Many pundits prescribe keeping a detailed journal of all of your thoughts, conversations and activities. Oh, please… If I had time to examine all of that, I’d have more time to do the things I’d really like to do. Here is a compromise. Make a list of what you really need to do for the day/week. Get those things out of the way in the most efficient manner. If it makes the most sense to stop off to buy milk on the way home from work rather than making an extra trip, you have probably just gained a half hour. If you can catch up with an employee via phone on the way to the airport, schedule that. Spend time on the plane planning and thinking. You can be alone with your thoughts and can’t receive emails. Don’t journal about it, do it.

Voices Of The Rich And Famous:

Inc.com even had an article about, “Time-Management Tips From 8 Self-Made Billionaires”. I’m not sure I am any the wiser for reading some of the advice. For instance, Richard Bransonrecommends conducting meetings standing up, and Andy Grove, former President of Intel INTC -1.15%, recommends ending your day when you are tired, not when you are done. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks seemed to say, “Never do meetings unless someone is writing a check.” (My response is, “Give it a rest Mark, this may be an example of why ‘rich people’ have a reputation of not having hearts.)

Warren Buffet was a little terse when he is quoted as saying, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” He can afford to say, “No.” My advice is to say, “No” to the things that will sap your time and that your gut tells you is not part of your work or personal wheel-house of importance. When asked to do something, say to yourself, “Does it matter profoundly?” If the answer is clearly, “NO,” there isyour answer.

We all remember the lyrics to the Cat Stevens song (when he was Cat Stevens), “It’s Not Time To Make A Change, Slow Down Take It Easy…” Watch your words about being too busy. Change the words, your attitude and therefore your actions. We are lucky to have any time at all.

And remember, some great people in history were also given the same number of hours each day that you have been given. Let’s ruminate on the hours given to folks like; Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, and Gandhi.