3 Proven Ways to Become Less Busy

Photo @samimiro

Photo @samimiro

As business owners and leaders, creating a vision and values-driven workplace should be at the top of our priority list for several reasons including increased profitability, employee engagement and satisfaction, and decreased turnover. But the reality is, that it takes time, energy, brainpower, and deep work to cultivate inspiring vision and instill meaningful values in your employees. Great leadership is challenging; it requires inspiration, passion, and innovation, and as a result, being a “great leader” oftentimes gets pushed back on the to-do list. We swap leadership activities out for tasks that come easier to us because it allows us to feel a sense of pseudo productivity.

Well, we’re here to tell you that you’re never too busy to be a great leader. In fact, busyness is a myth. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, says...

“Being perpetually busy is akin to being sloppy with your time and is the ultimate form of laziness.”

He believes that “on a superficial level, being busy is a satisfying substitute for doing important work… it’s very easy to confuse activity with productivity.” We've all heard it said-- we have the same hours in the day as Beyonce´. It is how we allocate that time that determines what our life looks like.

That being said, the ultimate hack to being less busy is to stop believing in “busy” altogether. Change your mindset, and your email inbox and calendar will follow.

To kickstart your transition, here are 3 Proven Ways to Become Less “Busy”

#1 Prioritize

“Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘It’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels.”
-Laura Vanderkam, Wall Street Journal

Start every day by writing down three to five priorities (tasks, projects, or duties) that are most important to you. Commit to completing them all before you end your workday. Time block them in your calendar. Be aware of the tendency to replace deep work with mindless tasks and busy work.

If you’re more of a visual person, you can place all your tasks into the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which categorizes projects and tasks into four categories: 1) urgent & important, 2) non-urgent & important, 3) urgent & not important, and 4) non-urgent & not important. Publishing individual or team matrices will boost productivity throughout the company by increasing transparency and setting expectations for turn times and deliverables.     

#2 Escape the Email Trap

“An email inbox is a list of other people’s priorities.”

Working out of your inbox all day is a red flag that you’re working reactively instead of proactively. There are so many tech solutions out there designed to help you work efficiently, without being a slave to your inbox. Some of my favorites are Trello for project management, Google’s Inbox Pause for those who can’t resist notifications, and Calendly for effectively coordinating meeting times. Google Sheets and Docs allow for easy collaboration on projects.

It’s also important to establish a culture of thoughtful communication throughout your company. As a leader, you can increase communication effectiveness and employee productivity by encouraging your team to:

  • Reserve brainstorming, innovating new ideas and problem-solving for meetings, not emails

  • If the chain is longer than 5 emails, take it offline to a meeting or one-on-one conversation

  • Instead of emailing, use a separate board for announcements, updates, or birthdays. You can use a physical bulletin board in a common area or create a space online using Google Docs or some kind of company intranet software.

  • Use meetings productively to share key updates and get feedback from other team members

  • Let your team know that according to recent studies, on average it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after an interruption. Interruptions include email notifications, instant messages, text messages, random nonwork-related conversations, or checking social media.  

#3 Only Do What Serves You

“Ask yourself about what is making you so busy. Ask yourself: is what you’re doing really what you want to and should be doing?”
-Tim Ferriss

So many of us do things or take on commitments solely out of obligation or social pressure. As a business owner, you have an endless list of things you can be doing, but it’s fine to only do things that serve you. If you catch yourself complaining about being stressed over things you “have” to do, ask yourself if you actually have to do it. Will you or your business be seriously negatively impacted if you don’t do XYZ? If the answer is no, say no. In short, do you boo.