In our age of ‘infinite information and constant connectivity’, who among us is not crazy-busy? Brené Brown has said that
When they start having twelve-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums.
In this short video, Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman suggests that the way to get out of the busyness trap is not by becoming more efficient, which actually only serves to attract more to-dos. Rather, we must let go of the illusion that it’s possible to get it all done.
In order to move from what Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow has dubbed time famine to time affluence:
- Choose what’s most important to you and schedule time for it, letting some things go.
- Act as if you have an abundance of time. Paradoxically, spending time volunteering or helping a friend can make you feel like you have more time.
- Focus on completing one task at a time and set boundaries for how long you’ll spend on each activity. Not only has multitasking been proven to be inefficient, but jumbling work and family time contributes to feelings of overwhelm.
Given the endless stream of information we’re constantly bombarded with, distractions need to be actively managed to stand a fighting chance against them. The short-term dopamine hit of a text message or Facebook like—while pleasurable—are usually not serving our longer-term goals, as creativity and flow states emerge only in periods of focused attention.
Researcher Jonathan Spira has found that returning to a task after an interruption can take 10 to 20 times longer than the interruption itself, and that a staggering one third of workdays are taken up by such distractions! Some simple ways to block the urge to check email, social media and text messages include:
- Disciplining yourself to check email less often (you can set up autoresponders to notify your entourage) and managing email with filtering apps like SaneBox.
- Disabling push notifications on your mobile phone.
- Using internet blocking sites such as Freedom or AntiSocial, or time trackers such as RescueTime to determine where your internet minutes and hours go.
- Putting the damn phone away during downtime, especially when spending it with loved ones.
As poet Iain Thomas notes:
Every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’