Are you distracted by ‘busyness’?

“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

Avoid multitasking

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.

Delegate

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.

Conclusion

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.

How to stop fearing failure

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill

We all set goals for ourselves as markers against which we measure our level of success and achieving them can be very inspiring, but there is always a fear of failure lurking around. Most of us do not know how to deal with it as we are not taught to deal with failure in school or in life. Many times, this fear of unknown, the danger of failure makes you give up on your goals either because you are scared of failing at them or because you fear other people’s judgments.

Sometimes, the dreams you had been working so hard to accomplish might take longer time than you expected. There might seem to be certain nuances or obstacles on the way in achieving them which you didn’t expect or sometimes things just don’t go the way you would like them to. It would be nice if accomplishing them was easy, but usually is not. There will always be times when you just want to give up and think that your great idea is just not going to make it if you fear failure.

Why we fear failure?

‘what if i fail?’ This sentence is a great stumbling block that does not let you try many things and take new approaches to accomplish what you want to leading to self-doubt. We fear failure mostly for two reasons. First, we see status and social acceptance as important to survival, so the thought of damaging our reputation is seen as huge danger when it comes to facing a risky situation. Second being we have learnt to accept failure as an unpleasant experience that causes feelings of shame and hurt.

Some people are in general more persistent and passionate about their long term goals. But the less gritty ones are not resilient in the face of adversity or difficulties. They give into their fears allowing them to dominate in convincing that ‘It cannot be done!’ Because of this, they are unable to stay the course when progress is not obvious and cannot bounce back after a minor disappointment.

Often, we get so caught up in facade of achieving our goals that we fail to identity obstacles that might stand in the way and do not to make plans to avoid or overcome them. However sometimes even the best laid plans can fail for any number of reasons. When things don’t go as planned, fear manifests into despair and becomes a major obstacle to progress. Because of this, you don’t put in the total effort that is required. It can be done, but you do not do it. Even though you have the ability but because you put in less than required, you cannot further overcome the failure.

With fear of failure,

• You subconsciously undermine your efforts and to avoid a larger possibility of a larger failure, you will convince yourself it’s better not to try.

• You impede your ability to address the actual problem fearing rejection.

• Self doubt makes you give up because you don’t want to feel incompetent or appear foolish.

• Fear of failure imprisons your experience in a cage that’s meant to keep the dangers out, but ends up locking you in.

• You never commit to your goals fully and avoid situations in which you don’t have control.

• You fail to capitalise on opportunities.

• You condition yourself not to set any goals as you self deprecate, devalue your worth convincing that you cannot achieve even though when they are within your reach.

How to stop fearing failure?

When you deny your goals or even give up on them fearing failure, you are rejecting who you are on the inside by fooling your subconscious. Failure is not something exclusive to you. As long as you have the will power to persevere the difficulties or failure and pick up from here, you can put up with situations that seem to be going against. You can continue to live with intent, purpose and direction.

If you use fear to understand the mechanism of failure by reflecting on your mistakes, you can stay motivated and adjust your course by learning from your failures. Maintaining high expected values for your goals over extended periods of time despite failures, setbacks and other kinds of adversity increases your endurance and tolerance.

Here are few strategies to work around your fear of failure and to persevere through obstacles.

Think Success

“Thinking is the hardest thing that is and that is why so few involve themselves in it.” and that is why the failures.

There is no disgrace in honest failure and fearing to fail. But in most cases, lack of planning and thinking that makes all the difference. Substitute failure thinking with success thinking. When you face a difficult situation, think ‘I’ll win’ not ‘I’ll probably lose’. When you compete with someone else think ‘I am equal to the best’. When opportunity opens, think in terms of ‘can’ and never ‘can’t’. Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans to succeed and overcome failure.

Learn from past failures

It might feel like failure only has negative. There are many who succeeded despite their failures. Each of them may have different reason for their failure; find out how successful people have succeeded despite their failures. Try to reflect on your past failures so as to figure out where the problem was—be it the method you applied or if your goals were unrealistic—don’t take the failure personally. Learn from past experiences and be honest about your weaknesses to move ahead. If you don’t learn from your past failure, you’re throwing away value. Use your experience to build something even better. Treat failure as simply a necessary part of your progress and rise from the past setbacks and disappointments.

Create your own version of success

Others opinion about you and they judging you should not hold you back from surpassing failure. The opinion of others has no power unless you yield it. Stop letting others dictate what you should and shouldn’t do. Believe in your unique goal and dwell on possibilities. Your beliefs have to be more powerful than any anxiety, fear or negativity you come across. There is no one prescribed way to achieve success and overcome failure. Be inspired to keep finding new ways to explore and build your own version of success.

Accept your fears

Failure can seriously dent your self-esteem and confidence. This is because we are made to believe that we are too good to fail from young age. Though it is good to build our self-esteem, but when faced with failure, we are more likely to take the escape route and allow fear, worry and self-doubt to dominate us. With failure also comes feeling of disappointment and rejection. It is important to recognise that fear that’s stopping you is just a feeling. Let yourself feel and let it pass without letting it to have an overpowering hold on you. This allows you to put everything in perspective and you can make the best possible decision to move forward.

Persevere through difficulties

It is very essential to persist through times of failures. Are you willing to go that extra mile? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to do what others won’t do ? When you are seeking your goal, don’t become impatient with the time taken or any difficulty you face. Instead consider it as a detour and devise a new way to reach your goal. Grow tolerant to put up with situations that seem to be against.

“Failure is only a temporary change in direction. Develop an inward zeal not to give up and persist in your efforts to transform it into success.”

Expect future obstacles and difficulties

Spend time on analysing what could be the possible obstacle to the goal you are pursuing, be your dream project or new career venture. Write down the worst possible outcome of facing the failure and then come up with an action plan to overcome it just in case. Think of future obstacles but don’t let it rule your decision to pursue your goal. Thinking of worst-case scenario gives you a balanced view and puts you in a positive frame of mind. You will be better equipped to tackle obstacles or solve difficult problems as they arise and you can get back with more vigour.

Grow the Action habit

Don’t wait until conditions are perfect. Action cures fear of failure. Waiting for perfect time by doing nothing about a situation will only strengthen fear and destroys confidence. Ideas of how you are going to overcome failure alone won’t bring success. They have value only when you act upon them. Thinking in terms of tomorrow, next week, later and words like this are synonymous with never. Be as ‘I am starting right now’ kind of person.

Redefine failure

We have all been conditioned to perceive success in a certain way, which then makes us believe that shifting those boundaries is failure. A way to stop fearing failure is to stop seeing it by the standards you may have been brought up with. Ignoring your small achievements will only lower your confidence in your future endeavours. Encourage yourself by celebrating every small effort you make. It may be in small doses, but it is the best way to get ahead. Don’t let the negative thoughts and anxiety hold you back. Manage them and prepare to tackle your next challenge.

Finally, don’t give up on your goal. The greater the effort you put into achieving a goal, the greater will be your fear of failure in achieving it. You face failure the moment you stop striving for. Don’t let the fear of bad decision or misstep hold you back and hamper your chances to improve. Instead cultivate a can do attitude and maintain high expected valuations for your goals despite failures.

To get out of your fixation on fear of failure,

• Focus on things that are within your control.

• Always believe that “there is a way”.

• Seek out your faults and correct them.

• Start fresh to see new solutions or new approaches.

• Learn from your past failures to make yourself strong,

• When facing difficult situation, take a step back and reconsider your perspective. Look at a problem from all angles. Break it down into small steps that are more achievable than big leaps.

• Stop judging yourself. Use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.

• Admit your fears, identify challenges and structure your expectations to create a road to your success.

“The obstacles that are in your way aren’t meant to stop you. They’re designed to point the way to a new route, new possibilities, and new doorways.” Anonymous