One thing that absolutely drives me nutty is busyness. Busy, busy, busy – say it fast enough and you buzz like a bee. Which is, apparently, quite a good thing, as we often say, “Busy as a bee.”
And maybe we get a buzz from all that busyness. When we’re busy, we belong to the collective hive of others who are busy, too. Buzz, buzz, buzz, we’re all in motion together.
Let me ask you this: are you busy for the sake of being busy, or are you actually doing something?
What do you have to show for all of your flitting around?
First bees and now athletes – I’m going metaphor-crazy. But hang with me, will you?
I’ve been watching the Olympics this week and have been struck by the efficiency of the athletes. I have watched skiers, eyes closed, visualizing the run they are about to take. Virtually practicing, they move their bodies as if they are edging through the gates at ninety miles an hour.
And I’ve watched figure skaters who put their hand here, their hip there, their toe spike down precisely at this point in a jump. That’s the only way they can land the quadruple toe loop.
But probably the most efficient athletes I’ve watched have been the ski jumpers. They launch, they move right into position, they fly.
All of these athletes practice, practice, practice until their discrete moves become muscle memory and more than second nature.
Know what else they have? They have a goal in mind – to win, sure. But also to be better than the last time they skated, skied or jumped. To have a better score, or to shave off two tenths of a second. That’s a win.
So for you to turn your busyness into productivity, you, too, must have a goal in mind and move efficiently toward it.
Which also means you have to have priorities. Because you can have four million goals to reach, but if none are sorted by importance you’ll spend ten seconds on each and accomplish nothing.
Which is not the way Olympic athletes train. They spend hours on one arm position. On where their knees should be on landing. On positioning their poles.
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things you do in a day. [Competitive? Then write down everything you do in a week.] Group them into broad categories, like Work, Kids, Spouse, Home, Bill Paying, Mom, Exercise, Professional Whittling (hey, it’s OK to have a hobby). Then look at your categories. Does work support your kids, or do kids support your work? Compare each category this way and you will ultimately have a sorted list of your priorities.
There’s another step.
Look at your list of priorities. Which lights you up and brings joy to your life? If that thing or things are low down on your list, then perhaps the reason you’re not productive is the conflict between what your heart wants and what your mind wants. Spend some time sorting out this piece and you’ll find that perhaps you can care less about your work identity – which will free up time and space to serve your parenting priority. Or your inner whittler.
Once you have your priorities in alignment, see which you need to attend to now, which can wait, and which can be dropped. If you are still tying your sixteen year old’s sneakers, trust me, you can let that go. Obsessively worrying about next Christmas can wait. Fixing the hole in the roof? That’s a now thing.
There is no point in being busy for the sake of being busy. It’s all wasted movement that generates nothing.
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” (The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, by William Shakespeare)
Signify something. Drop the busyness in favor of efficient productivity. And the only buzz in your life will come from seeing all that you’ve accomplished.