"I don't have the time to learn X...."
"I'm too busy to go to the gym...."
"There's just not enough time in the day...."
Sounds familiar? It should.
Today, we live in a world that celebrates, even glorifies, keeping busy for the sake of...well, keeping busy. What started as a noble goal to get more done in the day has turned into an addiction.
There's a simple explanation for it, according to this article from the New York Times, "The 'Busy' Trap":
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.
When we tell people we are busy, it makes us feel important. It's a signal to others that we're in demand and contributing to the world. I mean, obviously you must be doing something right if you are so busy, completely booked throughout the day, right?
Being too busy is not a virtue or a status symbol. It's a trap--but there are ways to avoid it.
You reap what you sow
All of us have a system in our bodies called the Reticular Activating System, which helps our brain decide what to pay attention to. Think of it as a filter for your brain.
In a popular example of the Reticular Activating System at work, British athlete Roger Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute mile record in 1954. A year later, over a dozen people also broke the record, including a high school student. Runners finally realized that breaking a four-minute mile was something they should add to their list of goals.
When we're constantly talking about how busy we are, our brain is going to find every reason to justify why we don't have enough time. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy over time.
Don't prioritize activity over performance
A question that's worth asking yourself is: "Am I working on something that's a priority in my life or business, or am I filling time with activities."
There's a big difference between activity and performance. We can be efficient in a lot of things in our lives, without ever being effective. When we say that we're too busy, it usually means that we don't have our priorities straight.
Rather than making time for everything, prioritize your time for what's truly important.
Remember: It takes practice
None of this is supposed to be easy. I continue to struggle with it every day, as do others.
Your priorities will evolve day to day, and there will always be temptations to fall into the "busy" trap. Which is why you must practice.
Being effective with how you spend your time is no different than building a muscle. With enough persistence and repetition, you'll get there.