the busy trap

By Gini Dietrich

A couple of years ago, the The New York Times had a great OpEd about how busy we are.

The author, Tim Kreider, relayed a story about asking a friend to blow off work to check out the new American Wing at the Met and the friend said he was super busy, but to let him know if there was a special event or something and he’d try to make it.

Kreider said,

This is the special event. I’m inviting you to go with me.

But the idea this friend of his would skip work just to go hang out is so foreign to a lot (most?) of us.

How many of you fall into this trap? When someone asks you how you are, you say, “OMG. I’m crazy busy!” And the person responds with, “Better than the alternative!”

I think about this story every time someone tells me how busy they are…or when I start to fall into that trap myself.

The Busy Trap

It turns out “busy” doesn’t mean “getting a lot accomplished.”

We’ve fallen into, what Kreider calls, the busy trap.

You can certainly be busy reading blog posts and participating on social media and creating content…without actually driving a real return-on-investment.

I’ve been there. I get it. I even fall victim to it occasionally….typically when I’m overly tired and have way too many things on my to-do list.

A couple of years ago, I remember Erica Allison writing about this very thing in Sometimes, You Just Gotta Boogie!

She explained that she over-schedules her life. So much so, in fact, it’s impossible for her to enjoy life because she’s too busy getting from one thing to another.

But she had an epiphany…accidentally. Her phone’s battery died and she was stuck at a concert without the ability to tweet, Facebook, text, or take photos.

At a concert without a phone!

After getting over the initial shock, she said,

I’m so glad I didn’t bring my phone. I danced. I laughed. I watched with delight the world around me. I even talked to strangers.

We’re so focused on being responsive 24/7 that we forget to life our lives.

Creating Less Noise

In November of 2011, we decided to go completely virtual.

We gave up the fancy and trendy River North office space and the Gini Dietrich cafeteria (four-star and James Beard award-winning restaurant, Naha) in favor of staff meetings via Skype, treadmill and bike desks, wearing workout clothes all day, and doing laundry while working.

At first, it was hard. The computer was always on and emails were coming in at all times of the day and night (that actually hasn’t changed…we’re all just better about not answering them).

I found myself getting even more entrapped into, “I’m so busy!” But I wasn’t really busy. I just didn’t know how to turn it off.

So I stopped working weekends.

Sure, there are still some weekends I work (and I often get caught up on writing content for this very blog on Sunday afternoons), but it’s by choice and not by necessity.

What I discovered before that is, on Fridays, I would tell myself I could do whatever needed to be done over the weekend. And then I procrastinated. And procrastinated some more.

Because of it, I often lost an entire work day of productivity.

Dumb, right?

But I was soooooo busy!

It turns out, no one dies if you don’t answer their email in the evenings or over the weekends.

In fact, no one dies if it takes you a couple of days to get back to them.

Funny, right?

When you give yourself a deadline of getting through your to-do list or, in my case, Inbox Zero by Friday at 5:00, you actually get it done.

Get yourself out of the busy trap, stop talking about how much you have to do, and start getting things done.

I promise, you are going to be much, much happier.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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