You’re busy. I don’t even need to guess, nor do I need to convince you that it’s a problem. The emails keep coming, the work piles up, and nothing you do seems to help. You’ve probably read time management books too, but they just add to the pressure.
I can relate. Although most productivity books don’t seem to help, I occasionally read another just in case. It’s why I read Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe when I went on vacation this summer.
Busy is different than I expected. Rather than telling us how to keep up, it advises us that we can’t: “We have to accept that we will never be in control again; there are too many demands on our time.” It’s better to accept “once and for all that you will never, ever be in control again, and that not being in control is okay.”
How should we respond, then? Busy suggests that we focus on three approaches:
- mastery — accepting that we won’t get it all done, and focusing instead on what we want to get done
- differentiation — switching from getting things done to making an impact, and knowing our unique callings
- engagement — focusing on depth rather than breadth
There’s little in this book that I haven’t read before. For some reason, though, more of the message got through to me this time. I’m someone who tries to get it all done, and Busy helped me see that this is a foolish and impossible goal.
After reading Busy, I took some notes to apply its lessons:
- Stop trying to stay on top of it all. It’s an impossible goal. Get sloppy.
- Plan around outputs (what’s most important to do) rather than inputs (responding to emails and incoming demands).
- Limit inputs.
- Do what you’re doing in a more playful, mischievous way.
- Stop doing things that are not core to your strategy.
- Start each day with the big things.
- Be brutally clear about who you are and what you’re about.
- Be clear about the problem that you’re trying to solve.
- Use big chunks to get important work done.
- Don’t try to fill dead time.
I know you’re busy. If you’re looking for permission to stop trying to keep up, and to focus instead on what really matters, you may find this book helpful too.