You’re Not As Busy As You Think

We are often our own worst enemy.

In many ways, I’m writing this post to myself. I had a very interesting conversation with my shrink the other day, wherein which he was calling me out on some of my less-attractive behaviors. He said to me, “Maybe you don’t do those things because you think you’re too busy and too needed elsewhere to do them.” (In this instance, the “things” were all the tasks I can’t seem to master in life, like paying bills on time.)

What’s interesting is that the conversation resonated with a few others I’d had. Jacqueline had asked me something about why I produce as much content as I do. Julien Smith had asked me why I still blog daily, and whether it was worth any more or less than writing weekly, or even less frequently.

YOU’RE NOT AS BUSY AS YOU THINK

Again, this post might be me writing to myself. See how you feel. I think that I equate “busy” with the “need to be visible.” I create so much material because I have lots of ideas and I want to share them. I want to share them because I love feedback. I crave feedback. And at a very base level, I just want to be “seen.”

Most humans want this. The Zulu say “Sawubona” as a greeting. It translates to: “I see you.” I recognize that you are there. It’s a powerful want for a lot of us, to be seen, to be heard.

But it can also be another kind of addiction. Addiction to feedback hampers a lot of other valuable pursuits. How often do you rush to see if anyone’s commented on your Facebook status or retweeted your witty tweet? How many times do you check on your blog to see whether you need to answer a comment? Ask yourself quite honestly what purpose this activity serves.

BUSY IS A GREAT SALVE

If you’re busy, you must be important. If you’re busy, people need you. Humankind’s greatest need: to feel wanted. If you’re busy, you’re not the loser you worry you might be. If you’re busy, maybe you’ll crack the code on what people will pay for faster.

But busy isn’t the same as “fulfilling a purpose” or “walking a path.” Seeking feedback excessively means that you’re not comfortable sitting with your own thoughts, and that you’re not comfortable with the question of whether what you’re creating is of value in your own mind.

Busy lets us try and not focus on experiences that hurt us or feelings that cause us some suffering. Busy is a fast-moving horse and we can’t really see the individual flower for all the patterns of the field. (This is a mangling of a Chinese proverb.)

GET LESS BUSY

My first steps towards becoming less busy were all very simple and tactical. I set my phone to do the fewest possible notifications. I get a warble when someone texts me. Besides that, I don’t get a notification when email arrives, when someone comments on a social network, or any of those. And guess what? I’m still responsive. I’m still valuable.

I did the same to my computers. I shut off notifications to as many applications as I could. And then I did one more. I closed my email software. I closed my social network windows. I shut all the windows and applications down on my computer except the one or two that I needed to work on my project at hand. Oh, and I started keeping my projects at hand front and center so that I knew where I should be spending my time.

I got less busy in my public life, too. I don’t go to all the events. I very willingly skip the biggest events in my industry, because they are too full of busy and not full of business. It’s great to see friends. But I can do that in other contexts. If I’m at an industry event, it’s because I have business there.

ACCEPT BEING INVISIBLE

This is the hardest part for me. I continue to maintain the fantasy that if I don’t blog every day, if I don’t tweet several times a day, if I don’t publish something interesting to Google+ a few times a day, then people will forget me and move on to other sources of information. In some ways, I know this to be true. We are a consumption society, hungry to click to the next thing and the thing after that.

But is that my lead generation model? Are the people who readily consume my blog and tweets and posts often my clients? No. They are quite often colleagues in similar lines of work. They are my eclectic and beloved mishmash of people from varied lives who think they are the only non-marketer reading my blog. They are people from the past who still can’t believe where I’ve gone with my life. That’s who reads my blog.

The people who buy something from me are often not quite aware of who I am, and they simply stop by, see the abundance of proof that I must be pretty good at what I do, and then they hire me for some project or another. Does that audience require daily interaction? No. In fact, I suspect they would loathe that. They want to know that I can help them succeed in adding business value. That isn’t measured in number of blog posts or tweets to my knowledge.

It is evidently okay to be a little more invisible. I’m willing to practice this. It’s scary, but doable.

HOW BUSY ARE YOU?

Don’t feel like you have to answer that with me. But ask yourself that question. Are you really overwhelmingly busy? Beyond a few deadlines and maybe some self-inflicted procrastination, how busy are you? And what is that “busy” doing to improve your lifestyle right now, and your business in the coming years?

What if you got some of that time back? What would you do with it? How would you spend an extra four hours a day? Four. Hours. Think about that. That might just well be the cost of busy. Where would you spend yours?

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