It seems like we are a culture of people busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, right? Life isn’t slowing down, but we can learn to be intentional so busyness doesn’t break us.
How do we find room to grow in the midst of a busy life?
Here are some practical ways to make proactive changes to break the cycle of busyness and make room for more growth in your life.
1. Direct Your Schedule Instead of Letting It Direct You
Being proactive requires making changes in advance before things get out of control. A reactive change is one we make once a crisis hits. After things have already gone wrong.
Saying no to things that will stretch the limited time we have can help us have more time to focus on things that are most important to us.
In order to commit to a mindset of growth, you’re going to have to develop determination. You can no longer react to others’ demands.
Incorporate smaller tasks throughout your day. Resist the urge to do things for an endorphin-seeking high. Randomly checking email is one way to throw away your opportunities for growth and productivity.
The next time you begin to react to other people’s requests and demands, pause and take a breath. Ask yourself if it can wait. Remember, the answer is almost always yes.
Lastly, put yourself in time out if you need to. Begin to label your feelings and ask yourself what is driving your anxiety and the sense of urgency that you must provide an immediate response.
Keep this in mind: a reply is different than a reaction. Give it the attention it deserves and direct your schedule accordingly.
2. Bite the Bullet and Create Consistency in Your Calendar
As an Enneagram 7, I quickly get excited by new opportunities. Were I to act on shiny object syndrome every time I saw a glimmer of something new, though, I never would have built the business I have.
Consistency will help you develop trust among your clients, business partners, and the community you serve.
To create consistency, you may have to segment your day into various zones so that you can grow aware of the time you’re most productive. Carey Nieuwhof recommends dividing your day into green, yellow, and red zones.
Since those times where you are most focused and zoned into your work are minimal, you should spend your time on the projects with the most significant potential impact during that time.
3. Cultivate Soft Skills
What are you doing in your life right now that you would secretly be relieved to stop doing? If an answer popped into your head right away, then that’s an excellent place to start when it comes to making some changes.
The concept of soft skills is nothing new. However, it is a concept that has grown in popularity in recent years with good reason.
Forbes reports that as more job activities become automated, soft skills, which machines cannot be replicated, have become more critical. Skills that qualify as soft skills are:
When you ask yourself how you can continue to grow with a busy schedule, challenge yourself to cultivate these skills within the work that you currently enjoy.
4. Brain Dump
How many of you would agree that you spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about what you must do instead of taking action?
Would some of you even go so far as to say that you spend most of your time thinking about what you have to in comparison to actually doing what you have to do?
In a podcast episode I hosted with my guest Allie Casazza, she reminded us that sometimes we’re overwhelmed because we don’t know where to start.
I’m here to tell you that you need to start by getting it out of your head. What is it? It can be anything from an action item, inspiring idea, or goal to a point you want to remember to bring up during your next meeting with your colleagues. Those thoughts can overwhelm you if you allow them.
In many ways, your performance mirror that of your computer’s performance. Your computer’s performance connects to its amount of memory. If your computer loses the capacity to store more memory, it will perform more slowly. You are the same way.
If you don’t get those action items and reminders out of your head, you will find that you’ve slowed down. You will realize you’re spending more time thinking of that thing you’re trying to remember, and you’ll stress about why you hadn’t written it down. Heaven forbid you stress out about where you wrote it down.
Open up the notes or reminders app on your phone and record those thoughts in a place as quickly as they rise to your attention. When you do, you’ll find that you can more efficiently delegate, automate other tasks, and continue to pursue growth.
5. Complete One Task Before Accepting Another (One IN, One OUT Rule)
Identifying the areas in your life that aren’t producing fruit is a great way to break busy and make proactive changes. What you say no to determines what you say yes to.
The One In, One Out Rule is most commonly followed by minimalists who regularly declutter their space. However, it is a rule we can apply to our activities.
If you have chosen to pursue growth in the midst of your busy life, you’ll need to monitor new activities. I recommend this for a couple of reasons. The first is that if you take on too many new activities at once, you may feel more defeated than encouraged.
Once defeat begins to set in, and you start associating it with that activity, you’ll be less interested in working on it in the future, regardless of how important a skill might be. Avoid defeat.
I also recommend you use the one-in, one-out rule. Assess what skill you will work on and where you will direct your focus. When you do, you’ll enjoy a more thorough understanding of the topic. You’ll also benefit from more introspection.
6. Examine what may be hindering you. A hindrance holds you back, slows you down, and keeps you from living the life you were created to live. Obstacles can come in many forms. Bitterness, unforgiveness, bad company, or self-sabotage are a few examples.
Begin to slow down and journal consistently. Invite others to offer perspective about what they see that could be holding you back from growth. It will significantly strengthen your outlook.
7. Decide to Become a Master In Your Trade
Mastery takes time. People spend years earning a black belt in Karate or participating as an athlete in the Olympics. Challenge your desire to rise as an overnight sensation by admiring the time and patience others exhibit outside your sphere of influence.
Distancing yourself from your skillset by learning from others in different industries will help you recognize the time and consistency mastery requires across the board.
Look for ways to mentor and teach others what you have learned. Positioning yourself as a leader or a mentor will require you to communicate in new ways. It will also help you become more reflective as you work to exhibit integrity and consistently incorporate the advice you’re offering others.
Ask others for help and position yourself as a mentee. No one makes it to the black belt or the Olympics by themselves. They rely on others who have gained higher leveled skills to become more aware of their blindspots and hold them accountable to their goals-especially when they don’t feel like it.
8. Consult HR
If you work at a company that offers its employees benefits and human resource support, don’t forget to reach out and ask questions. As you work to build those soft skills, you’ll also learn to advocate for yourself more effectively.
Many companies and nonprofits designate free conferences for their employees. You could be missing out on a few free opportunities to network and establish yourself in your field as a thought leader.
9. Respect Your Time, Set an Alarm, Conduct a Time Audit
One of the most important ways to continue to grow with a busy schedule is to start small. You may not have five hours to contribute to a new task, but ask yourself if you have 5 minutes.
I bet that if you skip the scroll on social media or put your phone on “do not disturb,” you’ll find it. You don’t have to podcast like a pro the first time you plug in your microphone.
Recognize that you will have different levels of mastery in various areas. Even though you may be a great communicator among large groups of people, learning how to speak in an isolated space and develop the technological skills to produce a podcast will take time.
Still, it’s not a reason to procrastinate any longer. Stop requiring perfection and excellence from everything you do. You won’t learn from failure until you begin.
10. Work-Life Balance
Recognize that work-life balance is the journey, not the destination. As the Harvard Business Review says, it’s a cycle, not an achievement.
Women experience intense pressure to do everything well and maintain balance in every aspect of their lives, but it’s not reasonable to expect this from yourself.
It’s actually harmful.
It is possible to feel like both a phenom and a failure, and that’s okay. There will be times when you are enjoying your children so much that you’ll forget a coaching call. And it will not be the end of the world.
It’s time to direct your emotional energy as purposefully as you direct your day. Decide what you will allow to influence you and pause long enough to recognize how it affects your relationships and overall happiness.
It’s time to return your mom’s call, go to brunch, and take a nap. When you rest, you’ll find that you’re more energized and able to focus. Rather than take the stance as if you are cramming for a test, you can enjoy the ease a mindset of a lifelong learner can offer.
When you struggle with difficulty remembering things, it is most likely connected to your lack of sleep. The Sleep Foundation reports that memory consolidation, which is essential to growth, occurs during NonREM and REM sleep.
Conversely, insufficient sleep can impair your memory. Sleep helps stimulate creativity and improve concentration, so when you’re feeling sluggish, consider taking a nap instead of chugging another cup of coffee.
Proactively making changes can be one of the most powerful tools to break the cycle of busyness in our lives. Finding the best yes in a world of endless options requires us to take stock of the things in our lives that constantly have us in motion.
Slowing down and making conscientious decisions about what to edit out of our lives will allow us to live with more intentionality and continue to grow in the midst of a busy schedule.
Over time, it will also give you more room to pursue self-care, and self-development, and help you invest in your relationships. Continue pursuing growth. You’re doing great!
If you’re ready to receive a weekly reminder that will help you develop as a lifelong learner with greater intentionality, take my Secret Superpower Quiz.