What I want to talk about today is busyness, time management, that sort of thing. So, what would you say if I told you that being busy is a sign of laziness? It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense on the surface. We typically think in this society that being busy is a sign of importance.
I recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk brag, "I work 17 hours a day, I'm busy, I'm busy, I'm busy." This is such a sign of pride in a lot of people and I'm guilty of that too, to some extent. Everybody is, we think that if you're busy that means you're important, and you're doing important things, productive things. You're being productive, you're getting things done, you're completing projects, you're getting tasks done.
Busy on The Surface is a Sign of Laziness
But, what I want to argue is this, a concept that I heard Tim Ferriss recently talk about, and he was saying that busyness on the surface is a sign of laziness. What he meant was that when you are just saying you're too busy to do this thing, or I'm too busy to do this, that essentially means that you're not applying strategy to what you're doing. You're not great at time management. If you're constantly too busy to do something important, you're getting caught up in the minutia of your daily tasks. You're probably not taking a step back and seeing the forest for the trees and coming up with some kind of review period.
David Allen has said in his GTD methodology, in his weekly review, where you have some recurring time to just come back and review, "what the hell am I actually doing by keeping busy?" You know sometimes, especially us in IT and engineers, we get so busy bogged down in the details that some days I get started on something, and by the end of the day, I have no idea what I actually accomplished. Nothing was really documented, and I don't really know what I did.
I was somehow busy the whole day but what did I accomplish? Nothing. I mean I have had that multiple times and that is in a sense of laziness because it is easier to just let life come at you. It's easier to just let things just roll off your body and do whatever comes during the day without any kind of time management, without any kind of planning. It's much easier to just sit down at your desk or your chair or whatever you're doing and then just "get to work."
That Quick Shot of Dopamine
You know, check email, let that be a trigger on something that you have to do. Let somebody IM you, let that route take you off track on what you're trying to do. Just the minutia of the constant distractions. We tend to sway towards more of that activity because it's quick, it's that quick shot of dopamine. We like that because it gives us a sense of fulfillment, just like when you're checking Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or whatever. It's a whole lot easier to scroll with your phone and see what's coming next because this is kind of like a surprise.
Like, "oh, oh there's a new post on this, there's a new post on something from Microsoft, or there's a new post on AWS, or there's a new feature I'm going to start playing with." And then we don't actually get anything done while we're doing that. I mean, there's a good task to keep up with that stuff because we, especially those of us in technology space, we have to keep up with that stuff to stay relevant and to feel like we're staying in the midst of technology coming out. But, a lot of us, me included, sometimes we get caught up, just the quick hits, you know we're just like, "I want to learn about this thing, Oh, that is really cool." You get it there and okay, "now I need to open up, do this coding thing, and something that was not really planned out at all."
Maybe you had your whole day planned, "I'm going to sit and work on this project." But, we didn't do it because we are lazy. We didn't have the discipline to work on something that's more important that may not necessarily be as fun and you're like me. In my situation, I procrastinate on things that I know I can't get a sense of fulfillment like right away.
Automate the Boring Stuff with PowerShell
Like the book that's coming out, should be coming out fairly soon. The Automate the Boring Stuff with PowerShell book. The first book I've ever written, and I procrastinate on that so must, because I knew that no matter what I did, "Okay, I'll write 5,000 words." Whoop-dee-doo! That's just going to be a chuck, that's not going to do anything in it. This kind of goes back to the term, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
It's kind of the same thing, you just break a big task project down into smaller chunks. Me I can't get over that mental shift of, "okay, yeah, yeah, yeah I can break it down into chapters and feel like some sort of success, but I never get that fulfillment. For some reason, my brain says I have to get the entire project done or I'm not going to feel like it was a success and I'm not going to feel fulfilled like you don't have a sense of completion that's just me. A lot of people say that you should break it down into small chunks and celebrate each little chunk.
Whims of What Life Throws at Us
So, try to be more strategic about time. We only have an infinite amount of time on this earth, and how you spend that time is so important, and how happy you're going to be, how successful you're going to be. If we just succumb to the whims of whatever life brings at us. We're just kind of treading water and blowing in the wind, we're not doing anything, we're not really going any specific direction. We're just kind of going how life takes us.
I remember another quote, somebody was saying like, "if you don't make any decisions, life will make decisions for you." Do you want to make your own decisions? Do you want to have a say in how your life is going to turn out? How your career is going to turn out? If so, you need to do, you need to do, obviously. If you're like me, I love to just do, doing, doing, without any kind of playing. I am the worst person to say this, but I can also be the best person to talk about this. I know what problems I have and I know that they need to be better, and I know how people feel when you have this big project on your hands that's going to take hours and hours of research and mapping out.
Doing this really creative brainstorming process and figuring out where you're going to go. That's a whole lot harder and much easier to procrastinate in than something like, "oh, I can check, there's this new guy that I'm following, and he made a really great blog post on this random topic." Or, "oh, it looks like a conference going on Microsoft Ignite."
I could spend forever on the Ignite site and just browse around and hit all the sessions and try to consume as much as possible, but I have to mentally stop myself from doing all that stuff because I have a plan, like every week I try. It's not religious but I try to come back and kind of plan your week out from week to week, and kind of get some kind of resemblance on where that fits in with your overall scheme of where you want to go. It's like I said, it's really hard and I still really struggle with it but it's something that I've been wanting to get better at for a long time, and I think I'm slowly but surely getting better at it.
Some tools that I use that may be beneficial to you is Skedpal. It's a great application to kind of budget your time, do some planning and set up some recurring tasks. It's another to-do list, but it's smarter, it allows you to do more time budgeting. Sets aside specific times and schedules out everything for you. It's a much smarter time management system that a lot of these apps are. It's the one that I use and one that I like a lot. There's a lot of other ones out there.
The core principle is to mentally, every once in a while, step back and take note at what you've accomplished during the day, during the week, during the month, and where you want to go for the next time period. That is by far and away the most important, catch yourself and think about what you're doing when you pick up your phone while you're just waiting in the doctor's office, and you don't even think about it and you're staring at your phone, searching through Twitter and you then think of like I don't even remember getting my phone out of my pocket.
That's how it usually is, it's just a kind of a natural reaction nowadays in the Western society where we just pull it out and we just start swiping through and figuring out, "okay, what the hell am I doing right now, I've had that multiplying I mean what the hell am I doing, I'm you're browsing something on a video game or I'm just dicking around on this app or this game I've been into for a while. What am I doing?" I think I found that experience multiple times in my life but it's something that I'm trying to work on a lot.
I really think it's something that if we are just cognizant of being busy and think of us not being a great thing, it's not being a good thing at all, it's actually us, just being lazy trying to find the latest quickest hit of dopamine that we possibly can to feel like we're getting something done, rather than taking a step back building a plan and then just really putting some kind of strategy behind our career, our life.
So, I hope you got something out of today's blog post. I always love doing these. Feel free to leave a comment, send me a Tweet on Twitter at @abertram. I'm on Twitter quite a lot so hit me up on there. I will try not to reply to you immediately because I would be being lazy probably procrastinating. Or, email me, or hit me up on any of the social platforms.
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