By Ben Hennessy (HENNESSY REAL ESTATE)
Have you noticed how often the word ‘busy’ features in our day to day language?
We might answer a friend’s greeting by telling them how busy we are, respond to our loved one’s greeting at the end of the day by telling them how busy our day was, or finally catch our breath during the day and tell ourselves what a hectic, busy day we are having.
There is no doubt the pace of life seems to be on an exponential curve – the older we get the faster time flies and the busier we seem to be. I can remember as a young boy looking ahead at the school term feeling like the holidays were forever away and would never arrive, or counting down the days to my birthday and time seemed to drag along at a snail’s pace.
Interestingly, research suggests that the release of dopamine in our bodies starts to drop past the age of 20, this slows our mental processing time so we actually perceive fewer ‘frames-per-second’ – which creates the impression that time is passing more rapidly.
There is no doubt that feeling busy because of the productive use of our time is a satisfying and noble ideal.
Whether it’s as simple as looking at your freshly mowed lawns and pruned gardens, through to reflecting on the achievements of a full day at work, reaching the end of the day with some accomplished goals is a rewarding feeling.
But are accomplishing goals and feeling ‘busy’ always the same thing? Think of a fly trapped behind a glass window, trying desperately to get to the outside.
No matter how hard that fly beats its wings and sustains its frenzied efforts, it’s not getting through that glass window.
The fly was busy, but it certainly wasn’t productive.
Now I’m not suggesting we all need to cultivate some monk-like inner calm if we are to live productive lives without the frantic busyness.
However, the links between stress and physical health continue to be more strongly proven, so taking some time out during each day and just remembering to breathe can be an excellent way to slow your heart rate down, calm your mind from the constantly whirling busyness, and ultimately allow yourself to refocus and prioritise.
Deeper still, cultivating the habit of periodically stopping for these ‘moments’ can slow the passage of time down, as we literally take in more frames-per-second in these moments.
Previously, I have referenced the teachings of my wonderful business coach, Dr Fred Grosse, who teaches the importance of creating 10/10 moments throughout your day.
These 10/10 moments are simple, cheap or free, and are invaluable in creating meaning, enjoyment and mental and physical health in our day to day lives.
So don’t just take a moment, really stop and enjoy it, breathe it in and allow yourself these little micro ‘resets’ throughout your day.
Now we all know the saying, ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’.
This makes sense when you consider that a busy person is often driven to achieve goals, tick things off their list and fill their days with meaningful activity.
Hence adding a job to their list means it is more likely to get done, rather than giving the job to someone who spends the majority of their day on the couch.
In a business setting, while it is great to be busy as this usually suggests a degree of healthiness to the business, the trap is making yourself so busy that you don’t have time for the important, but not urgent things.
So how do we best prioritise when we seem to have an overwhelming amount of important items on our list?
One of the simple time management tools that I often refer back to is that of business management guru, Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Covey has championed the Time Management Matrix as a simple but effective tool for sorting through the busyness of your day and focusing on your priorities.
It is best explained with the following story:
A philosophy professor took an empty bucket, with a pile of rocks next to it.
Wordlessly he filled the bucket up with as many big rocks as it could hold and asked the students if the bucket was full?
The students agreed that it was.
Next he took a pile of smaller pebbles and placed them into the bucket, gave the bucket a little shake and the pebbles fell down the gaps between the big rocks and further filled the bucket.
Surely now the bucket is full, he asked, to which the students agreed.
Next, he took a bag of sand and poured it into the bucket.
The sand trickled down between the big and small rocks and filled up the remaining space left in the bucket.
The big rocks, the professor explained, represent all the important areas in your life – your family, your partner, your children, your health and happiness – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter – your job, your home, your car.
The sand is everything else, the small stuff.
If you put the sand into the bucket first, there is no room for the pebbles or rocks.
The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important and critical to your happiness.
The story goes on to say that at that moment an enterprising student walked up to the professor and proceeded to pour a glass of beer into the bucket.
Of course, the beer filled in all the remaining spaces in the bucket making it truly full.
Triumphantly the student announced that the real moral to the story was that no matter how full your life is, there is always room for BEER!
In order to make sure your life is focused on the ‘big rocks’, Covey’s Time Management Matrix (pictured) suggests taking the items on your list and splitting them into four quadrants: Urgent & Important; Urgent but Not Important; Not Urgent but Important; Not Urgent & Not Important.
For best results follow these six tips: 1. List the tasks you need to complete; 2. Include deadlines; 3. Identify the most urgent tasks; 4. Organise by importance; 5. Place tasks in the correct quadrant; 6. Assess your productivity.
This simple process is a powerful way to cut through the ‘busyness’ and ensure you are focusing your efforts on the important areas in your life, the areas that are truly critical to a life of happiness and fulfillment.
See more from Hennessy Real Estate:
- Life lessons from real estate
- Team quality can make or break a business
- Often asked question: Should I rent my home or should I sell?