I think a lot of us – myself included – lose sight of the fact that business with an “i” doesn’t always have to mean busy-ness with a “y”.
When I say business, I’m referring to whatever work or activity you do that crosses the six elements of life. Business is not necessarily restricted to what you do within your organisation or enterprise. For the purpose of this reflection the “business frame” applies to what you do at work, in the home, within your community and for yourself.
How many times have you been asked, “How are you going?”, and you answer, “Busy!” or “Flat out!” We wear busy-ness like a badge of honour. It gives us a sense of worthiness and value.
But is it valuable?
It’s a question we rarely ask ourselves. That’s because busy-ness is a rut. We often don’t even know we’re in it until it’s too late and we’re suffering the debilitating effects of “busy-ness burnout”.
When I start to notice the steady creep of “busy-ness” in my own life, I focus on the “y” – or why. Why am I doing this activity? Do I need to do it? Should I do it?
We often engage in activities we do not actually need to do. We may tell ourselves we need to do them, but we don’t look at this “need” objectively. These kinds of activities become habits and patterns of behaviour we never challenge. And when we do, we often immediately put up a wall: “But I’ve always done it, and done it this way! It’s just the way it is.”
Busy-ness is noise. It distracts us from what’s truly important. The business that is important slides down our to-do list as we constantly fight fires, take on one more task, say “yes” to that thing we don’t want to do, and add to our mental load. It’s burnout waiting to happen, which helps no one – not yourself nor the people you serve and do community with.
But busy can feel strangely comfortable. It’s a space we know well, and to leave it can be a little too confronting.
When we remove the busy-ness, we are forced to look at ourselves honestly, openly, and we might not like we see. We can feel the pressure to fill that space again. Some of us even feel some pride in the martyrdom supreme busy-ness can provide. I know I have been there.
How much better would it feel knowing we are doing work that truly matters?
Our business that is focussed, purposeful, and sustainable.
To remove the busy-ness, here are some key questions we need to ask ourselves about the things we do:
- Why am I doing this?
- Is it useful?
- Does it serve a purpose?
- Does it need to be done?
- Do I need to be the one doing it?
Our to-do list can seem never ending.
We relish being able to tick something off it – even if that “thing” didn’t need to be there in the first place. If you answer the first question in the list above with, “Because I have to,” ask yourself why. Keep asking yourself why.
Is the activity useful? Your answer could be a simple yes or no, but you might find it helpful to do a bit of work around why you started doing the activity in the first place. If it’s not useful, then you should probably stop doing it and spend your energy on value-adding activities.
You also need to dig a little deep deeper and work out whether what you are doing has a purpose. It may be useful in a sense, but not really serve any meaningful purpose. Or it may be completely not useful and serve no purpose. Just another act of “busy” to add to the noise of your world.
Lastly, if the activity is useful and does have a purpose, do you need to be the one doing it? Are you the best person for the job? Could you delegate it to someone who could do it better? Or should it be dropped altogether?
This is a simple conversation, but one very much worth having with yourself. Try to have it regularly, as busy-ness is insidious. We can be ensnared by it before we know it, as we add one more thing to our schedules, then another, and another. Before we know it, we’re stressed, depleted of energy, and forgetting the important stuff, the work that adds value to our lives, to our souls.
Focus only on the work you can and should do.
The work where you add the most value – for others and yourself. This is where your genius appears, where your creativity flourishes. Because let’s be honest, work can suck at times. It can be hard. It isn’t all beer and skittles!
But in those moments, if you’re doing the work you should be doing and you focus on the business with an “I” (“you”), it will still feel worthwhile.
You know you work with purpose. There is intent behind your activity, which fuels your energy, and adds to the gift you give to the world.
So, as you go through this day and week, I’d like you to think about the business you do. What business should you do – the one that’s in service of the “i”?
And if you feel you are stuck in a rut of busy-ness, what can you let go of so that you can get out, back to the business that matters?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.