How to manage and control being busy

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When we ask friends and colleagues “How are you today?”

the answer is often,

“Yeah, I’m good but I’m really busy”, “crazy busy”

to which we often reply

“Yeah, me too, there is never enough time in the day.”

This was me by the way :o]

It’s like being busy is something that we all aspire to be and if we aren’t busy, then we aren’t working hard enough.  It’s a badge of honour that many of us carry around with pride.

According to Harvard University, people are increasingly succumbing to ‘humblebragging’ – boasting about their busy lives as a way to prove that they are ‘highly in demand” and phrases phrases such as ‘I have no life’ and ‘I need a holiday’ are now used to imply social standing.

The truth be told, if you are busy then you’re out of control.

Dr Susan Koven practises internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In a 2013 Boston Globe column, she wrote:

In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.

Being busy is an epidemic and we live in unprecedented times when it comes to our hectic lives with multiple distractions.

“Our attention is under siege” – Daniel Goleman

If you find yourself in a state of busyness, then the following will help:

Not-To-Do Lists

We all have to-do lists but most of us don’t have not-to-do lists – these are the activities or habits that we want to remove from our lives.  These could be:

  1. Checking the email constantly
  2. Agreeing to meetings without a clear agenda
  3. Over consuming social media, news or TV
  4. Toxic relationships
  5. Allowing app notifications
  6. Multitasking
  7. Being a pleaser and saying ‘Yes’

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek

On my Not-To-Do List, is:

  1. Don’t eat sugar.
  2. Don’t check the email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  3. Don’t pick up any calls with withheld numbers.
  4. Don’t avoid difficult conversations.
  5. Don’t try and be perfect.


When you’re overwhelmed with busyness, don’t work harder; ruthlessly prioritise and make sure you are working on the things that are really going to drive your life/career forward:

  1. Make sure you are working on your business and not in your business.
  2. Look at all your active projects and kill the ones that aren’t going to meaningfully move you closer towards your goals.
  3. Revisit your goals or life choices and evaluate – Are you working on the things that will make the biggest difference to your life/career/business?
  4. Go through your diary with a critical eye and cancel anything that you don’t absolutely need to attend.

Start each week and day with an intent

Every week on a Sunday, take some time to plan on what you want to achieve that week; pick no more than 5 things that are critically important to moving the big things in your life forward and really understand as to why these are important.

Each morning, review your weekly goals and plan your day, deciding which of your weekly goals you are going to tackle that day and what are your most important tasks of the day . 

So, watch your language next time somebody asks you “How are you today?” and if you catch yourself saying “I’m busy”, then smile to yourself and take action.

About Nick

Nick Powell is the founder of Stronger Self and he works with entrepreneurs and senior leaders to enable them to take their personal and professional performance to the next level.

Nick’s approach uses cutting edge tools and techniques from the worlds of biohacking, productivity, anti-aging and neuroscience; harnessing the exciting intersection between biology and technology.

Nick has developed his Peak Performance Coaching Programmes to enable his clients to deliver extraordinary results across all aspects of their personal and professional lives.

He runs his Coaching sessions face to face in London & Surrey and across the World via Zoom.

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