Always being busy is not healthy

I know it’s an unavoidable part of modern-day society but we’ve also made being busy into some kind of strange accolade. The other day I asked a client how she was and she replied with a sense of glee that she’d been so busy. It was as if she had, like so many of us so, directly correlated her self worth to her level of busyness.

In contrast, the other day I visited a CEO who presented quite a different picture. When I booked the appointment with his PA I enquired about his availability. She responded by saying;  “He leaves a portion of his calendar open for new ideas specifically for conversations like these.”  How novel, I thought; a senior executive who wasn’t chasing their tail.

We met at his office which had an air of calm about it. There weren’t a million papers on the desk and during the meeting he was completely present in the conversation. There was no checking of cell phones or iPads or pained looks of ‘when will this end because I have so much to do’. When I asked how he achieved such presence and seeming calm, he responded with;   “It’s simple. I don’t wear busyness as a hero badge. I know the value of not being busy and over-committed”

Busyness and creativity can’t co-exist

What this executive knows and many others are beginning to understand is that you cannot be creative, innovative and moving to new levels at the same time as being busy. Busy is a function of ‘doing’ but moving to new levels requires a new way of ‘being’. It requires introspection, reflection, downtime and the interrogation of how we do things.

Busyness is for all intents and purposes, a pattern; a habit that we get into to avoid change. I’m not suggesting don’t engage in activities but unless busyness is coupled with downtime and introspection, you won’t know if the activities you’re busy with are actually in line with your grand vision.

Getting Un-busy

You might realise, after having read this article that you might have been a little overcommitted of late but how do you rectify it? Well, here are some simple techniques to help you to cut to the chase;

  • Go back to your vision and then check your daily activities against your vision. Are you busy with the right activities? If not, delegate or let them go.
  • Follow Jobs! Steve Jobs was famed for going to sit in the park and draw. He’d come up with new ideas and innovations. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
  • Grab a coloured pen. Yes, I know you probably have a smartphone, iPad and laptop but there’s something special about writing in colour. It connects with the right brain, the creative part of the brain and allows us to express our creative ideas.
  • Make time for nothing. I know it might sound crazy but ask any Zen master and they will tell you, you can’t fill a cup that’s already full. You can’t get new, creative ideas unless you make space for them. Leave your diary free a couple of hours a week and watch the magic unfold.

Lisa is a brand catalyst, author and speaker. She is the author of six books (including Carbs, Curves and Everything in Between) and has contributed to CNBC Africa, Psychologies, Shape Magazine and The Star Workplace.