“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants, the question is, what are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau
Time is the greatest opportunity in our life among all. Those who utilise it well are the successful ones. Almost everyone these days have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done. Most of us do lot of things which make you seem busy in a public manner like answering mails at all hours, or scheduling and attending meetings constantly, or instant messaging when someone poses a new question and so on. For many, there’s a comfort in such artificial ‘busyness’ of fast e-mail messaging and social media posturing, while actual work demands that you leave much of that behind. In such cases, your ‘busyness’ becomes proxy to your efforts in doing productive work. Such unproductive busyness leaves you discontent as there are always certain aspects that could be done better thereby forcing you to confront the possibility that your best is not that good.
Being ‘busy’ is not same thing as being ‘productive’
We find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. While many might be logging in long hours at work, or at home, but the same might not always end up in doing quality work. Because of this we often feel that we spending a lot of time on something, but don’t feel like been productive enough. One main reason for this could be the most important tasks are usually a bit more difficult and require more of our attention, time and focus. But most of the time, we get so caught up in the day-to-day distractions or ‘busyness’ of life and give either more or less attention to things than they deserve and lose the sense of being in control. We often cite the reason of being busy for postponing some of our important tasks. This habit of putting off important tasks on the back burner can rob you of your hours of achievement and success.
Think about the last time you felt highly productive. In productive state, you remain highly focused on what you are doing and make a noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome. Whereas with ‘busyness’, you start to feel out of control, unfocused, confused and stressed out. The inability to manage your time properly leads to additional stress related issues and burnouts very early on. In the absence of clear goals, the visible busyness becomes self-preserving, and developing a belief that if a behaviour relates to being busy, then it’s good-regardless of its impact on our ability to produce valuable things. All of the social, digital, and societal trends only add to one’s busyness and do not directly add to the value of quality work one produces. With unmindful busyness,
• You waste time on doing unimportant tasks that could be used productively.
• It creates unnecessary anxiety as you put off the important tasks to later.
• It impedes your clarity and focus.
• By leaving little time for the important task, the final output is usually short of what you are really capable of.
• You cannot adopt to changing situations as busyness impacts your perspective of what’s really going on.
• You cannot plan on sticking to your deadlines for your projects.
• Leads to flawed thinking and distracted behaviours.
“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” –John C.Maxwell
How to overcome ‘busyness’ to become more productive
But if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and instead deploy your attention to its fullest capacity to things that matter, then you’ll discover that you can create a life rich with productivity and meaning. To overcome ‘busyness’, one has to manage his/her time effectively to work on priorities. Making optimal use of time helps you in curbing the stress and burnouts. If you spend significant amount of time towards professional aspirations and goals, learning how to use that time optimally will help you achieve positive outcomes.
Here are certain strategies to overcome your busyness and become more productive.
Put first things first
Because of the busyness, we always have a reason to put off the important things. What fills up our time is a result of what we let into our days. When you don’t choose important things, your days automatically get filled with not so important ones. Prioritising helps you in making right choices. In order to rise above ‘busyness’, you have to know what your purpose is and should be able to define your goals. Before doing something, consider asking yourself
whether the tasks you are working on are important for your end goals. Unless you consciously take time out for your priorities, you will not be able to accomplish goals that are important to you. Start your day with a “To do list” and prioritise the vital few after picking them from the trivial many.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. — Saint Francis of Assisi
We find that more we do, the more we add up to our to-do-task list and end up in multitasking. Multitasking has become a part of life for many of us where we believe that this is a way to be more productive. Science reveals that our brains actually can’t handle doing more than one thing at a time. With multitasking, your attention remains divided as there will be a residue of your attention when you switch from one task to another. This leads to poor performance. Whereas by working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, you can overcome non-productive busyness and can also maximise your performance.
Reduce your distractions
Many are permanently tethered to their work day in and day out, dealing with trends like answering emails at all hours, instant messaging, and active presence on social media. Of course certain mediums offer benefits to your social life, but none are important enough to what really matters to you. Always trying to catchup can claim your attention and time adding to only to your ‘busyness’ and not in producing work of real value. Learn to reduce your reactiveness to these distractions. Identifying factors that side track and deter you from achieving the task at hand. Consider blocking or create blackout periods over a day to free up your time. Try and fill up your free time with something of more quality and meaningful.
Many times we get drowned in the details instead if focusing on micro and macro. Details are important, but only those that will affect your end goal. You only have a limited amount of time a day. The end goal is to accomplish your task efficiently by way of optimal use of your time. If a particular task is taking too much of your time and it’s not the most important part of your work, delegating it to right people can help you overcome your ‘busyness’. Once you do this, ensure you trust the person and provide them enough room to get the job done. Using the right people, tools, and resources to is important in doing so.
Focus on being effective
Improve your overall quality, rather than trying to tick everything off your to-do list. It is important to understand when to say no by asking whether are these tasks necessary. If you say yes to everything, you find your schedules with things that keep you busy but don’t make you productive. Once you have set out to achieve your important tasks, ensure you say no to disallow things that hamper your productivity. Saying yes to the wrong things, even if they are small will eventually take up your time later on and add to your busyness’. Saying no to unimportant things will protect your time so that you can use it for the things that matter.
“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.”
Schedule your day
Many of us spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. Because of this, it’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of our schedule. But by scheduling your day, you can determine how many hours you’re spending in doing quality work.
Scheduling your tasks for the day helps you plan your work goals and removes the risk of losing out on important tasks. Doing this at the beginning of the day can get you more organised. If your schedule is disrupted, you should at the next available moment, create a revised schedule for the time that remains in your day. This will give you a careful gauge in your efforts and you can discover pockets of free time that go wasted.
Relax & Unwind
Unproductive ‘busyness’ often leaves you exhausted, bad tempered and stressed. You fail to gather momentum for next days’s work unless you recharge yourself. Once you are out of your working hours, inculcate unwinding yourself. The impact of unwinding is often underestimated and we fail to recognise that our minds need a downtime as well. Our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax says David Allen in his book “Deep Work”. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts organised can we achieve effective results and unleash our maximum potential. Mindfulness practice is a perfect antidote for ‘busyness.’ Taking some time to practice being in the moment helps you connect with your inner self and reduces feelings of tiredness and stress thereby creating space for you to become creative and productive.
Apply outcome thinking
You can’t really decide the right action until you know the outcome you’re after, and if your outcome is disconnected from reality if you are not clear about what you need to do to make it happen. Setting Goals or desired outcomes creates a cause-and-effect link in your mind about when certain goal-relevant actions will be taken. When you make plans ahead of time and decide what actions will be carried out, you can engage in doing productive work instead of being bogged down by unimportant tasks. Setting goals provides sufficient direction to move you toward your outcome rather than wasting your time in unproductive ‘busyness.’
Adopt next-action approach
Most of the times too many discussions in workplaces end with only a vague sense that people know what they are going to do. But without a clear decision that there is a next action, not much is accomplished. Forcing the decision about the next action prevents those issues that are important from slipping away thereby providing more clarity. Walking away from discussions with clarity of outcome makes each member involved in your discussions more responsible about the specific job assigned to them. This also reduces anxiety of undecided actions and increases your productivity.
Finally, Be willing to change your unproductive busy habits to do something more meaningful and productive work.
when you take up tasks, asking yourself,
“What does this mean to me” Or “ what’s the desired outcome?” “What are the pros and cons?” lets you identify things that aren’t necessary. This way you can align yourself to be productive instead of engaging yourself with everything that comes your way.
Are the tasks you are busy with right now add to your life’s purpose? Or are you being the victim of distractions and social trends? or can you find better and organised ways to do your tasks?
If you want to focus without distraction, achieve more in less time and be better at what you do, apply the above mentioned strategies. Getting past the unproductive busyness of your life not only helps you to become more productive but also provides a sense of fulfilment and gives your mind something to do meaningful.
“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”
This time of the year is great time to reflect on the past and to look forward for the coming year – to understand the decisions you’ve made in the past have brought you to where you are now and to determine what kind of improvements you want to make in your life for the future. This means making resolutions to change those habits or circumstances that you’ve been unhappy with or to complete the unfulfilled resolutions that you set for this year or in the past or to set some new goals for the coming days.
Do you need to make some resolutions in the first place?
Many of us don’t believe in setting new year resolutions and want to work on our long-term goals throughout the year. In spite of that, there is no harm in setting some resolutions that will not only improve your potential in achieving your long-term goals, but also help you improve your overall productivity. Sometimes we think there is no use in making new year resolutions as we often fail to stick with them. But rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, setting small and achievable milestones can always be helpful and beneficial in achieving your bigger goals.
It is always important to set some goals and make some resolutions that are most meaningful to you, something you really want to change, and something you’re willing to work for and are passionate about. Here are some reasons why you should always set some for yourself.
• Resolutions strengthen your willpower.
• They help you to coordinate your efforts and increase your optimism. For example, when you start a diet, you adopt new rules for eating healthy. By following set rules, you become more positive about your abilities.
• They improve your resolve to overcome your temptations and help you in achieving your goals.
• They strengthen your belief in yourself as you attain certain of your resolutions.
Why do your resolutions fail ?
Most often, we make resolutions relating to certain aspects of our lives we want to improve upon like for instance, to change unhealthy lifestyle, or quitting a bad habit, or to find happiness, or to improve career prospects and so on so forth. Even though we all desire to make changes, many of us fail to keep with those resolutions for long-term. We all start off with lot of enthusiasm, but as the momentum dies down, We fail to stop the resistance from sabotaging our resolve to change.
There are many reasons as to why you fail to keep those resolutions, it may may be due to setting some unrealistic ones or may be they might have failed because, you didn’t really want to make them happen. Sometimes you come up against circumstances that make it especially tempting to break the resolutions. You start making exceptions or giving into your temptations and you end up breaking your resolutions. Resolutions fail when we start to allow too many exceptions.
The majority of us make resolutions related to something we think we should do, but unless we are willing to stick to them and willing to put the time and effort into making them happen – it won’t happen. It will be almost impossible to make your resolutions a reality if you don’t fine tune them or have a clear plan in place to achieve them.
What if you fine tuned your resolutions?
Sometimes you might set new resolutions and follow them and eventually achieve your goals and sometimes your resolutions may not get you all the way to your end goals. When resolutions don’t materialise, it adds to the sense of ‘can’t’ and lowers your self esteem. You might begin to think that you are stuck with old undesirable habits no matter how hard you try. To improve your self esteem and to make your resolutions achievable, you need to fine tune and redefine them.
Your desire to start fresh or step over the old habits and into the new ones requires your commitment to make a positive change. However if you set unrealistic ones or if you want to achieve too much too soon, they will be difficult to achieve. So comes the need for reframing or fine tuning your resolutions. Before you do this, evaluate your resolutions based on following and make your resolutions as specific as possible.
• Are you being your best self in striving for these goals?
• Is the goal you set for yourself is realistic ?
• Will this increase your level of stress?
• Are you working on what’s important or are you distracted?
• Is it too much too soon?
• Is your resolution achievable?
- Do you have enough resources like time and money necessary to achieve your resolution?
Evaluating your resolutions helps you determine whether you are moving towards your goals. When you develop awareness of how your goals are making you feel, you can begin a new approach, by redefining and fine tuning them. Instead of being negative or getting discouraged or overwhelmed by them, take time to evaluate in an honest way and plan on action in incorporating them in your daily schedule. Here are some strategies to fine tune your resolutions.
Focus one at a time
Setting too many resolutions can lead to exhaustion in trying to keep up with them and you tend to lose focus. To do ‘all the things’, you will find yourself doing none of it. It is better to focus on few good habits, instead of trying to start many and never getting the hang of when the end of the year comes around. List all the possible goals and choose one or more that mean the most to you. Focus on one and add new ones only after achieving the first.
You will never have time for your resolutions if you wait until you are free. Make time for them. What you do have, however are activities that you need to complete by the end of the year, or within the chosen time frame. In order to manage those activities and ensure that they get completed within the desired time frame, you need to prioritise. Focus on those that are needed and say ‘no’ to things that are not in line with your bigger life goals.
Keep your resolutions realistic
Make your resolutions sustainable and achievable by making small changes rather than unsustainable drastic changes. Make subtle changes which increase your chances of success. Fine tune your goals to be clear and measurable. Create SMART goals -specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Treat yourself with enough compassion by not putting too much pressure on yourself or stressing yourself up to achieve them.
Overcoming your temptations and resistance during incorporating certain changes into your schedule takes time and needs your patience. Your resolution to change a bad habit or setting a new habit takes time. Just because it takes time, you need not fall of the wagon and give up on yourself or your resolutions year after year. Have enough patience to give yourself time to get better at the changes you wanted to make.
Consistency is important when it comes to keeping up with your resolutions. When you do something every day, and consistently, it becomes a part of your routine. Consistent actions will propel you towards your goal. Even choosing a small task will motivate you to do more. Prevent too many exceptions and allowing yourself to come up with excuses. Keep up with your resolutions everyday until they become a habit.
Reevaluate your progress
If your goals are the same as they have always been, something clearly isn’t working. You may need to make changes or adjustments to fulfil certain goals you have set for yourself. Look for any underlying issues that could be the reason. Adjust your processes and reevaluate your actions. You can achieve much more by finding the efficient way to reach your goal.
Make yourself accountable
Realise that at the end of the day, you are the only one dealing with the consequences of your actions. Keep yourself accountable. If your resolutions don’t reflect your beliefs or values, then you’ll have difficulty in achieving them. Self-discipline and ask yourself why it’s important to you. While making resolutions, consider not to make too many exceptions and hold yourself accountable.
Finally, be clear about what your resolutions are, why you are making them, and what the result will be when you are successful. This way, you can create an action plan, stay motivated and achieve your goals and fine tune them.
Take a moment to reflect upon what kind of resolutions you want to make for the coming year. Apply the above strategies to evaluate your resolutions and fine tune them to make them realistic and achievable. Once you make your resolutions, commit to whatever you have planned, do them and be consistent in your efforts. Don’t force it if its really not working out in the long run. Give yourself an option to exit if its not working out or if it is no longer in line with your vision, but otherwise hold yourself to your resolutions and achieve your goals.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.“
We all make different decisions every single day either big or small. Most of the decisions made on a daily basis are relatively inconsequential or small and are made without us paying much attention to them. Whereas making some of the big decisions like career related choices or work/business related matters can be tough and can have a major impact on our personal and professional lives.
Why decision-making is important?
Your competency is often measured by the quality of decisions you make and the outcomes achieved in your life or work. Whether you manage a team at work place or manage an organistation, your success depends on you making right decisions and learning from wrong ones. No matter how big or small a decision is, it is important to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action. Our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make both big and small. Making the best decisions becomes important in many disciplines. But not everyone is well equipped with good decision-making capabilities especially when it comes to making tougher ones.
Difficulty in making decisions
Throughout our lives, we come across situations, where we need to make hard choices, especially when the decisions we need to make are life-altering, it gets much harder. In other words, making such decisions makes us uncomfortable as we tend to think what we choose will say something about what we are and what we value. Some of us get anxious when making these decisions by weighing the merits of each option back and forth in our mind thereby making us indecisive. Some of us are used to having a need to rationalise each possibility before deciding on the best course of action. When faced with too many options, we just cant make a choice. Difficulties in making decisions can lead to stress, anxiety and depression and if left unchecked, can distort your perception of the world of yourself.
The reasons behind such indecisiveness is largely due to doubt or regret or the element of uncertainty and is mostly rooted back to certain personality traits and cognitive biases. For example, people witch strong need to reach a conclusion in a given situation tend to engage in black-and-white thinking, while ambivalent tend ṭo be more comfortable with uncertainty. Sometimes, the internal biases hold you back from making decisions. We all have them and they can affect our “big picture” decisions for better or worse without we realising it and would often impact our decision-making capabilities. These biases can lead us to judge a situation too quickly. Here are some of the most common ones.
Change more often is not preferred, so if given a choice, many stick to what they know as they are comfortable with and are afraid to deviate from them. They make past choices as established custom and do not go by logic or rationality or relevance while making a decision. To overcome this, believe that change can be good and start with small changes and be open to doing things differently.
We all like being right. But sometimes we ignore information that challenges our beliefs. We don’t want ṭo seek the information that opposes our views thereby creating a bias in the decision taken. To balance out your prejudice, it is always better to consider the information even if that opposes your views.
We tend to feel more comfortable with those who have things in common with as we feel more understood and accepted. We begin to treat these people more favourably or become more aligned to such a group. In other words, we start judging a book by its cover. To break this bias, try to interact genuinely with individuals outside of your group. You might have more in common and can transcend surface-level differences.
When we place too much emphasis on certain piece of information, we tend to use that as a reference point to measure the remaining information creating the anchoring effect. In order not to let this happen, take time to evaluate by considering various aspects instead of rushing into a decision.
Being aware of your own biases will help you view your situation more objectively and to gain clarity around the decisions you make.
How to make effective decisions?
All of us have innate desire to be able to make better decisions and to protect ourselves from the wrong ones in order to create a bright future. But many factors; conscious and subconscious affect our choices and we need to know the ones that will help us improve our decision-making. Here are some ways to improve your decision-making.
Identify the triggers for indecisiveness
If you have difficulty making decisions – there is a chance that you are afraid of something. Figure out the reasons behind those fears to recognise triggers that cloud your mind. Is it a fear of failure? Or fear of missing out? Or is it because of your insecurities? By knowing the reason behind your discomfort, you can figure out how much sense it makes and whether it leads you to making the right decision. It would be a positive mental shift in seeing options as ‘ good’ and ‘bad’, to just choice A and choice B. Train yourself to think pros and cons with out being emotionally affected. Be aware of your triggers and practice challenging your previous choice patterns.
Squash all the biases
With biases we become prejudiced and make decisions without proper clarity. Simple errors lead to poor decisions due to our emotional ambiguous state. It is important to spot these errors and omit them to make better choices. You need to consider the likelihood of all particular outcomes. Instead of taking into account every possible outcome, look at the ones that are most likely to happen. You need to guard yourself against biases to think clearly when making decision.
Gather right information
Assuming that you know everything about a choice that needs to be made may not lead you to right decision. You can only make a decision based on the best information you have at the time. That is why it is important to gather right facts as many as relating to what you are contemplating on. Question your assumptions instead of jumping straight into something without properly considering the facts. All big choices have consequences and could result in more failures and regrets. If you rely on your assumptions, you run the risk of accepting a bias. The more you explore the background information, the more reliable your decision will be.
Consider what is at stake
Do not allow others’ agenda to sway you from making the choice thats right for you. You should be making difficult decisions with yourself in mind. Ask yourself:”will I like myself after making this choice.” Anyone can tick all the boxes in terms of a solution, without taking into account how that decision may make them feel about themselves. Consider how you’ll feel about yourself when you’ve made that choice. If you choose the easier, unassertive option, you risk a drop in self-esteem. Trust yourself enough to believe your decision is well informed and good.
Once you made a decision, it is easy to find evidence to support it. confirmation bias will ensure you find more and more reasons why you are right. So Instead of trying to prove your potential decision is right, prove it wrong. Look for reasons to doubt it, of you can’t find any then you can have confidence that decision you are making is a good one. Test your decision against multiple scenarios and if it still looks the best choice from different perspectives, go with it.
Don’t prejudice outcomes. There are always more variables to consider. The more alternatives you consider, the more likely you are to arrive at a better decision. But with too many, you may find it too hard to make your decision. Keep them limited. Step back and identify alternatives to seek others’ view points. Listen to arguments and probe for understanding. There may be valid perspectives you hadn’t considered, which could pave way for right course of action. Looking for alternatives creates different points of view, new insights and new choices.
Sometimes people mull over too many dimensions and are unable to choose a course of action. There’s this or that person to consider, the consequences that might arise, and sometimes it might be the fear of making mistakes, or fear of what others might think and so on. The flip side of over analysing is that we fail to identify what is outside our control. Take decisions based on what feels right, with proper assessment of the best available information instead of overanalysing.
Finally, Trust your instincts in making your decisions based on right principles and establish clear objectives that identify with your desired outcome or that which provides solutions to your problems. Decide on the lines of whether to if your decision is efficient and effective.
Next time around while making a decision that is crucial to you follow these steps to make better decisions. Once you’ve made your decision, act on it. Make your decision measurable and achievable.