It’s a fine habit of mine to respond to the question of “How are you?” with a heavy sigh and a comment, “I’ve been so busy recently.” As if it’s a new thing. As if I didn’t say this last month. As if there isn’t a thousand other things to say to reflect how grateful I am to be in the place I’m in. But instead we use this excuse as the getaway car to keep doing exactly what we are doing.
I know I’m not alone. This phrase goes on forever and into eternity. If your organization is in a slow time of the year, you’re just “catching up.” When it’s fast pace, you just can’t keep up. We’re being stretched thin and there’s no time to reflect or plan ahead. And whether or not it’s a concept of the company culture, each individual has a choice to follow the tornado of emails and never-ending to-do lists, or to choose the essential aspects of their job but more importantly — their goals — in order to do less better.
I would rather do less things with more focus, determination, and energy, rather than to do more things with quick wins, diminishing enthusiasm, and built-up resentment any day.
Think about bees for just a moment. Their sole job is to make honey. They make honey all day and that’s how they survive. They eat off of the honey, so the most important thing they can do is to stay busy and make honey.
Humans like to think that their sole job is to do… everything. They’ve got to empty their inbox, mark off each item of their to-do list, react to the latest urgent matter, and attend every meeting. This is what has been explained to them and what is expected. When you start out a job like this, there is no turning back.
It takes very honest conversations with your boss and with yourself to break away from the typical expectations of your role. It means putting aside your fear of disappointing others, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) to really start putting the essentials first.
According to Greg McKeown, you must start doing in order to stop doing everything, and start only doing the essentials, as documented in his book Essentialism.
A new perspective of “no”: saying no is a rejection of someone’s request, not a reflection of the person who is asking this. Saying no tactfully means respecting your time and boundaries enough to say no to an additional task. It means allowing yourself to turn down the idea, rather than let down the person. We feel a lot of guilt when we say no to someone else, but its a necessary feeling in order to stay yes to your true priorities.
My favorite resources: