Every now and then I’m guilty of letting myself get so busy I not only don’t see the forest for the trees, I usually wind up walking face-first into one of those trees.
It’s easy enough to do, and for a chunk of the time that it happens, I’m usually happy about it. It goes like this: I realize I am Very Busy and immediately make a list of things that Must Be Done Right Bloody Now Or Else, prioritize and get to them. Of course, as I am furiously working away, emails arrive or someone stops at my desk with something they need help on and then there’s that to think of and this Project We Forgot About that was needed yesterday and that other thing for the meeting tomorrow and….
..and suddenly it’s not even the end of the week, it’s the Monday of the following week and my head is still spinning and I’m going 300 miles an hour in every direction possible.
Confession: I love being busy. As a business owner, busy equals making money. Back when I was an employee, busy meant I was necessary. Busy meant I was doing my job well and was being given more trust and responsibilities.
When I was given my first big break, I took on every challenge and opportunity I could get because I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I deserved it. I ended up working ridiculous hours, often putting in 12-16+ hour days to try and handle everything. As you can imagine, this isn’t the best idea when your job is to be creative. One day, in the middle of a management meeting we were all brainstorming for ideas. I was running on zero sleep and was making my list of things I needed to catch up on when one of the managers came up with a great idea. The company president looked at me and said “I thought you were supposed to be the creative one? Why is he coming up with the good ideas?”
It was barely a half-serious comment and we all carried on exploring the idea, but it had cut me to the quick. I had wanted to say “Because I was the only one here until after midnight 3 nights this week while you all were sleeping!” – but knew there was nothing to be gained by that. The person who had made me stay that late was me. I realized that working such long hours had become a vicious circle: I wasn’t at full capacity and so I needed to keep going longer to get the work done. I was a race car running with one cylinder down, not taking the time to hit the pits for repairs and instead being slower and slower on every lap.
I shut down at 5 o’clock that night alongside everyone else. Went home and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t work that weekend. I returned to the office on Monday and before I opened my emails or answered the blinking voicemail light waiting for me, I took a moment to breathe. To focus on what I wanted to accomplish. To think forward through my current projects and also think big picture for a moment. I made some notes and then waded into the task lists waiting for me.
Several years later, I still remember that moment clear as day. While I am always grateful to be busy, I do my best to take some time every day for myself. I schedule my workouts in the middle of the day as a time to step away and free my mind. This means I work later in the day, but it’s a conscious choice and one that works for me. It’s important for all of us to remember to be able to take a step back every now and then.
I’d be interested to hear from everyone – how do you deal with being too busy? What is your recharging mechanism, and do you allow yourself time to do it?