How to Avoid Being Busy but Barren -- Part 2
"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." (Socrates)
The secret nobody talks about is that our addiction to busyness does not guarantee effectiveness. Checking off all the items on your to-do list doesn't mean you've done them well. Getting more done doesn't always equate to maximum impact.
In fact, squeezing more into your day often takes away from your ability to be effective. You can't be fully present with someone if you're in a hurry. You can't rush a good conversation. Some things require us to stop thinking about what's next so we can focus on what's now.
Chronically busy people often forget the law of diminishing returns. This economic theory states that after a certain point, increased effort will not necessarily generate proportional returns.
For example, if your office has five computers, hiring ten people won't double your return because there isn't enough equipment to go around. Likewise, spending ten hours working doesn't mean you get twice as much done as you do in five hours -- because every hour after five causes your performance to decline. Working twice as long may be far less effective than you imagine.
The ancient Jewish people made it a law that the fields were to lie fallow once every seven years. They understood that the soil needs time to rest and replenish itself. The land itself was more productive when it took some time off.
And we haven't even begun to think about whether the work we're doing is actually moving us in the direction we want to go. Most of life can be divided into two activities: achieving and connecting. In study after study, the vast majority of people claim that connecting is far more important than achieving. And yet we spend a disproportionate amount of our time in activities that can only be described as achieving.
I remember years ago when my children were small. I was giving one of my daughters a bath, and she was playing around in the bathtub -- just being silly. I remember saying to her, "Okay, no playing around now. Let's hurry up and get out of here."
She looked up at me and asked -- with the sincerity only a toddler can muster -- "Why, Daddy?"
In that moment I could not think of a valid reason. I didn't have anywhere I needed to be. There wasn't anything pressing on the calendar. I didn't have a meeting to attend or an appointment to run off to. I was just so accustomed to being so busy all the time, rushing through stuff had become my default setting. Here I was telling my daughter to stop playing in the bathtub, because I had become addicted to hurry.
Think about what it is you really want out of life. Then examine your daily routine and ask yourself if the way you're living is actually the most direct path to get where you really want to go. You may be able to achieve in a hurry, but you can't connect that way. No one wants to be told, "I really want to connect with you, but can we hurry it up?"
In most of the things that are important in life, doing less can actually pave the way to experiencing more -- more satisfaction, more joy, even more effectiveness.
Photo Credit: Xavi Moll