Rethinking busyness

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC
Photo by Shutterstock

“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?” (Henry David Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 16 November 1857)

In other words, what are you busy about in your life? Busy seems like a badge of honor these days. Everyone is “busy” with some pursuit of pursuits. But what does this even mean anymore? Often, reducing clutter in our life, prioritizing what’s important, and getting organized will often make it to the top of our New Years Resolution list, but 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second week in February. So, what can we do?

Today, a business associate shared with me his mantra, “Never come home with an empty tank.” How often are we depleted, low on energy and just managing to get through our day? People obsess about and almost worship “busyness” because they seem to equate it with productivity or a badge of honor. However, I am reminded by what my first boss taught me, “Results, not effort get rewarded.” It can quickly become a contest of who’s more oversubscribed. For example, you might answer 80 emails in a day, attend 5 meetings or share about some other way you measure busyness. But the truth is, such tasks don’t always translate to meaningful results, or more importantly, a purposeful, fulfilled and connected life. In fact, they can become mindless and leave us unfulfilled, demotivated and disengaged if we don’t check our energy level regularly.

The next time you feel “too busy” to accept a compelling invitation, I challenge you to take a step back. What is currently filling the time you’d need to do X or Y? How does it rate in the grand scheme of things? We can find the time. And we can make time. If something is a priority, we often can find a way to make it happen.  But when we get caught up in the moment, it’s easy to forget what is important. We create a false sense of urgency around things that are not pressing and what’s near and dear to our heart can fall to the wayside.

Think for a moment about the life you are living. What’s missing, or what would you care to do more of if you thought differently?  With this in mind, you’ll have to carve out or make to a priority to find that time. While we might not be able to quit our jobs to write the next Great American Novel, there’s one universal truth — there’s always a time we let slip through the cracks. If you can take back those lost minutes and hours, you might be surprised how life can be more gratifying. You might be surprised by the time you can find to spend with someone. Often, at the end of life, we don’t have regrets about the things we said yes too, but we often have regrets about the things we said no too. We often think in terms of next time – but next time might never come.

So, what are you busy about? What’s holding you back from a more purposeful and intentional life? Don’t delay. Get started today.


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