“Want to go out tonight?"
“I can’t. I’ve got to work this weekend. I’m super busy and have to finish X, Y, and Z before Monday.”
“Okay. How about next weekend?”
“Nope. I want to, but I still have to [rambles off todo list].”
If you’re in business, I’m sure you’ve had this conversation. You awkwardly dance your way around invitations and make up excuses for why you can’t give up your time.
Being busy is a good thing. It means you’re focused and know what needs to get done. However, being “too busy” is an excuse for not correctly prioritizing and allocating your time.
People that are “too busy” are usually seen as ambitious and driven. Really, they are anxious, tired, and stressed out. They run on motivation and often end up burnt out after a few years.
If you're always busy, that means you're also always tired. Being tired hurts your productivity because you aren’t working at full efficiency. You'll end up wasting time instead of using it wisely. The mind needs time to decompress so it can recharge to solve challenging problems. There is truth in the old adage, “work smarter, not harder”.
Many people wear “too busy” as a badge of honor. It’s not.
It’s not cool or impressive to work long hour days. What is impressive is planning your day and getting everything done in the allocated amount of time. There’s no such thing as “not enough time”. Everyone gets the same amount of time in a day. It’s a matter of what you prioritize and how you spend it.
Health, Wealth, Love, and Happiness
Life isn’t just about work and professional goals. It’s about health, wealth, love (social relationships), and happiness. Work only makes up the wealth portion of the equation.
A good life comes from the balance of these four core categories. If you’re a millionaire, but are dying because you didn’t take care of your body, the money won’t do you very much good. If you’re in great health, but can’t afford to pay rent every month, you probably won’t be very happy.
People who are “too busy” often have these areas of life out of balance. They work 10-12 hour days and don’t allocate enough time for their family, friends, cooking, eating well, exercising, and/or doing whatever makes them happy.
If you allocate your time correctly, you’ll see that these categories all build on each other. Rather than pouring all your time into one bucket and letting the others fall apart, focus on allocating the correct amount of time in each bucket and watch your life improve.
How to Properly Allocate Time
One of the biggest problems I had in my past was trying to accomplish too much in one day. I was someone who was “too busy”.
I’d make a todo list and load it with all the high priority tasks I could think of. At the end of the day, I’d feel bad because I could never accomplish tasks as quickly as I could write them down. Not only did I not finish everything, I wasn’t allocating enough time to the other aspects of my life like hanging out with friends and taking care of family.
Since then, I’ve developed a strategy to make sure I don’t run into this problem. I’m sure there are many ways to properly allocate time, but here is the solution that worked for me.
The biggest criticism I get from this method is it’s too rigid. I hear, “I wouldn’t want to be tied down to an hourly schedule” all the time.
I want to be clear that you don’t have to follow the schedule exactly as it’s written. It’s more of a guideline to help you avoid planning too much in one day. If you choose the hour of when you’ll work on something, it makes sure you won’t overbook your time because you can’t do two things at once.
Here is an example of what the schedule looks like. It's not pretty, but it gets the point across.
Life isn’t “too short”. We are given plenty of time to accomplish our goals and spend time with our friends and family. The trick to is to properly allocate your time and constantly ask yourself, "am I using my time wisely?"
As Seneca wrote in On the Shortness of Life:
"It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it."
So stop being "too busy" and take some time to enjoy the human experience.