November 9, 2015
Most people in your organization would probably say they are busy. But are they busy doing lots of things that take time, or are they getting the most from their limited attention and delivering results? Based on our experience working with leading organizations around the globe, we would like to share five strategies to overcome “busyness” towards helping you enhance performance.
Strategy No. 1: Say “No” to the “Busy Mind State”
Busyness is a state of mind. Sure, we all have lots to do. But if we get caught in the “I am so busy” state of mind, it drains energy and limits our effectiveness. If we think too much about all the things we need to do, we are wasting time and increasing stress. Consider that “busyness” is a choice. Yes, there is much to do, but by letting go of the “Busy Mind State,” you may be more efficient and get more done.
Quick Tip: Think about all the things you really have to get done today. If realistically you can only do a subset, then make a plan, do the most important ones, and do them well. And don’t waste time thinking about things you know you can’t do.
Strategy No. 2: Clear the Mental Clutter
To really let go of the “Busy Mind State,” you need to clear mental clutter. Most of us carry too many unnecessary and unhelpful thoughts around in our heads, contributing to our experience of busyness. One of the best and scientifically validated methods of clearing mental clutter is mindfulness training. Specifically, mindfulness training has been demonstrated to enhance focus, increase awareness, reduce stress, and improve overall sense of well-being. For more on the benefits, click here.
Quick Tip: Train in mindfulness for 10 minutes a day, every workday for the next 2 weeks. There are many good apps that can guide your daily training. For one that has been specifically designed for busy people with limited time, search for The Potential Project in your app store.
Strategy No. 3: Kill All Notifications
Too many of us allow ourselves to be constantly distracted by various forms of technology taking our attention away from the person we are with or the task at hand. Researchers estimate that every time we are distracted, it can take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes for us to reengage with what we were doing. If we want to be less busy, we need to be vigilant about reducing the number of unnecessary distractions so that we can enhance focus and productivity.
Quick Tip: Start by turning off all email notifications on all your devices. If anything is really urgent, people shouldn’t be sending it via email. If this is not how things work in your organization, consider having a conversation with your colleagues about your use of email and how to minimize unnecessary distractions for everyone.
Strategy No. 4: Avoid Action Addiction
There is a big difference between activity and productivity. Many of us get caught up in doing lots of things but not focusing enough attention on those things that will help us realize desired outcomes. From a scientific perspective, our brains can easily get addicted to tasks that don’t necessarily help us achieve important goals. (Know anyone who can’t wait to get to the next level on Candy Crush?) Avoid being addicted to activity by slowing down to speed up. Ensure that you are clear on your priorities and plan your day to ensure you are making the best use of your time.
Quick Tip: Take a moment to think about one of your key priorities for this week. Block out uninterrupted time where you are going to allow yourself to focus on that and nothing else.
Strategy No. 5: Get a Good Night’s Rest
Research suggests that at least one third of Americans are sleep deprived. No one performs at their best when they are not well rested. The brain is a muscle, and, like any other muscle, it needs time to rest and relax. Most “busy” people have a tough time sleeping because they can’t shut off the train of thoughts that keeps them awake or wakes them up in the middle of the night. Reducing the amount of conceptual activity one hour before bed and adding mindfulness training into your nightly routine can be a great way to enhance sleep.
Quick Tip: Plan to get at least 8 hours of sleep tonight and set your bedtime accordingly. Now make a commitment to not use any screens, i.e., no phones, computers, tablets, or televisions one hour before bed. Before going to sleep, do 3 minutes of mindfulness training.
We all have lots of things we need and want to do. Being “busy” is not helpful; in fact, it only makes us less productive and more stressed. Use these strategies to overcome busyness, get more out of your time and attention, and enhance performance and well-being.