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The Illusion of Busyness

illusion of busyness perkspot culture

“I’m so swamped”
“Just trying to keep my head above water”

You may have uttered one of these phrases at some point this month, week or even just a few hours ago. But is it busyness that has us feeling overwhelmed or, like a mirage in the desert, is it merely an illusion?

Technology has advanced at such a rapid pace I wonder if we are really as busy as think or if we simply have an unhealthy relationship with time. In fact, I think deep down some of us like saying these phrases as if they somehow make us feel important or purposeful. Multi-tasking is no longer a skill that only the most successful possess, but something that inundates the ins and outs of our everyday lives. But while we may get things done when we multitask, we often neglect to do things well.  We find ourselves running around from one task to another all for the sake of feeling “busy”, but never really accomplishing anything. Priorities are out of line and our work begins to suffer.

So how do we dispel the illusion of busyness in our lives? Is it even possible?

First of all, breathe. I think many of us grab our coffee and sit in front of our inbox dreading the day to come. When we let the weight of our tasks overwhelm us, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Take a breath in the morning and spend time planning out your day. Prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadline. With a clear vision in front of us, the work will seem less monumental and more manageable.

Secondly, do something that you’re passionate about. We spend a lot of time just going through the motions of our days without focusing on the things that truly make us happy. If you’re truly passionate about your work (and I hope that you are!), spend time developing a new skill, read an educational book, or attend a seminar. These activities will renew your passion and keep you moving forward. If your passion lies outside your nine-to-five, jump into a cooking class, take photography lessons, or just spend time with your friends and family. Prioritizing our passions can refresh us and more importantly, give us purpose beyond our full agenda.

Remove the word “busy” from your vocabulary and start prioritizing. At the end of the day, you may not respond to every email in your inbox, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t productive.

The Art of Single-Tasking

single-tasking multi-tasking perkspot culture

The convenience of the smartphone has turned us all into expert multi-taskers. We can listen to music, read our email, chat with friends and ride the bus, all at the same time. But how effective is multitasking really? Sure, we may get things done more quickly, but at what cost?

Here are a few reasons why you should choose to single-task:

Single-tasking focuses your attention.

When we switch rapidly from one task to another, our minds are never fully engaged in the work we are doing. Have you ever talked on the phone and driven at the same time only to discover you took a wrong street or drove a little too fast? This is because our brains were built to focus on one thing at a time. Choosing to do only one task at a time helps us focus our attention in a single area, so we are able to think critically about the task at hand.

Single-tasking requires taking your time.

So many of us receive an email and feel the need to respond within minutes – no matter if we’re sitting at the lunch table or getting ready for bed. But when we reserve bedtime for bedtime and work time for just that, we are much more efficient and less likely to make mistakes. Don’t send that email while you’re tired; wait until the morning to visit your inbox and make sure you’re responding with a clear head. Have a client who wants an immediate response? Shoot them a quick reply to let them know you’ll think about it and get back to them, or better yet, set the expectation before you leave the office that you prefer to respond with fresh eyes in the morning. You don’t always have to respond with an answer- chances are just acknowledging their request will be enough until the morning.

Single-tasking makes you present.

One thing that annoys me, but that I often still find myself doing, is leaving my phone out during meals. I have to say the majority of my coworkers at PerkSpot are good about keeping their phones put away during lunch, and I find that it fosters much better relationships and conversations. When we are constantly distracted, we are less likely to make memories and engage with others. Practice engaging in conversation without your phone beside you and you may be surprised at the memories you’ll make.

How-to Single-Task:

These tips will have you single-tasking in no time.

1. Incorporate #TablessThursdays

Pick a day of the week where you limit the number of tabs you’re using in your web browser. By choosing one day to be ultra-intentional about single-tasking, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.

2. Try the Pomodoro Technique:

  • Choose a task to be accomplished. If you’re embarking on a larger project, split it into a series of small, specific tasks.
  • Set your timer to 25 minutes (the length of one “Pomodoro”).
  • Work on your task until the timer rings.
  • Take a short break (up to 5 minutes).
  • After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
  • Turn off phone notifications.
  • Set aside specific times for checking email throughout the day.

3. Use technology to your advantage.

Download extensions like Momentum, which reminds you of your to-do list every time you open a new tab in your browser, or One Tab, which consolidates all your tabs into one so you can go back later and review.