Tips to becoming un-busy

We like to tell others how busy we are. When asked how our weeks or days have been, we often answer, “crazy busy”. We think that if we aren’t busy, we aren’t worthwhile.

When my husband (then boyfriend) and I were dating, we used to eat out a lot. I remember there was one time we were looking for a restaurant to eat and we were both very hungry so we went to a restaurant with not so many patrons inside. We sat down and then thought we will be served pretty quickly as there weren’t many people there. The waitresses were looking very busy and they took a while to take our order. The waitresses were literally running from one end of the restaurant to the other, in a hurry. My husband and I looked at each other and said, why were they such in a rush and so busy while we could count with one hand the numbers of occupied tables in the restaurant. The food also took longer than average to arrive and by the end of our meal, we were more than ready to leave the place with one question in our heads; why were the waitresses acting so busy?

For a restaurant, being busy should equal to one thing; more customers and therefore, more profit. Similarly, at work or in life, when we are busy, it should mean we are working towards our goals, becoming a better version of ourselves and making a difference. Therefore, it is important to a step back and think about why we are so busy when we are busy. Are we busy for good reasons; are we making an impact, are we following our dreams, are we serving our customers better, are we growing and expanding?

If we answer no to all of the above questions, then perhaps, we don’t need to be busy and we are actually not busy. In that case, we can do a few things to become un-busy so that we can use our time and energy to do things that matter.

Let’s have a look at a few things we can do to become un-busy or less busy in our lives.

1. Practice mindfulness
Every one of us has the power to decide whether we want to be busy or not, and the first and most important step is to be aware of what we are doing, hence, being mindful about them. For example, we may have the habit of checking our Inbox or social media feeds every 10 minutes and then we might end up not achieving much after a day work because we were too “busy” checking emails. Then we ask ourselves, why do we check our Inboxes or social media feeds so often, and then we realise that we actually didn’t think about why as it has become a habit.

2. Priortise
Yes, we may be doing something every minute of our waking hours, but we do really need to be doing them? By prioritising our activities, we can be intentional about how we spend our time and return our focus to what matter to us. If you are a busy executive, you might find opportunities to delegate and develop your team which will help you become less busy. Or there might be a few things that you can eliminate from doing altogether because they no longer add value. After all, being busy is the result of misplaced priorities.

3. Change our mindset
As I mentioned earlier, we tend to think being busy equals being important and as long as we think that, we will unconsciously find ways to be busy. Therefore, we need to shift our thinking in order to make the decision to become un-busy. Look around us, we can see that the most successful and the happiest people that we know are never the busiest people. They are the ones who are productive with their time and those who also find time to sit back, relax and just be.

4. Schedule “Me” time
Michael Jordan, an American Athlete has once said that “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” It is a very powerful statement. We may say that we want to be less busy or we wish we would be less busy, but without any action from our part, nothing is going to change. We can schedule “Me” time by blocking time out in our calendar to do things that we like, for example, baking, taking a walk or just doing nothing. It might seem unproductive at first, but researches have shown that “me” time or “idle” time is essential to our overall well-beings and enables us to become more productive and think better afterwards. As a result, we don’t feel the need to rush or have a false sense of urgency and think and act like we are busy. And really, we don’t need to reply to every email or every message the minute we receive them. The world is not going to stop if we just take an hour break to unwind.

5. Learn to say “No”
Most of us have the desire to please others and help others. While I think it’s absolutely wonderful to help others and to be at the service of others, we need to be mindful about whether we are spending too much time pleasing other people and saying Yes just because. One of the reasons why we don’t like saying no is because we don’t want to seem rude or appear selfish. I used to be like that, until I truly understood the art of saying no. Remember, it’s about quality and not quantity, ie: it’s about how much value we add or bring by helping others, rather than how many times or how much time we spend helping them.

By applying the above tips where possible and becoming more mindful of how we spend our time, I believe that we can all become less busy and yet make an even more impact to things that matter to us.

My confession: I have no passion.

I have been thinking about this word for a while, “passion“. I am often envious when I hear people say that they are really passionate about something; for example, writing or coding or cooking or whatever it may be. I have also used the word passionate many times, and whenever I do that, I sort of get an imposter syndrome. Am I lying to myself? For example, I care about the issue with lack of women in technology and I’d like to do my part to raise awareness and help out where I can. But does it make it enough to claim that I am passionate about gender diversity in technology? It feels even worse when people use the word “passionate” to describe me. “Ei Sabai is so passionate about career development.” “Ei Sabai shows her passion in her writings.” 

The more I think about passion, the more I realise that it is subjective. Unlike your BMI, there is no standard formula to tell you whether you are truly passionate about something or not. I also realise why I feel a bit uncomfortable whenever I use the word passion or the adjective passionate to describe something I do enjoy doing. 

You see, many people tend to say they are passionate about one particular thing, and one thing only. For example, Mary might say she is passionate about writing and all she wants to do every single day is to write. John might say he is passionate about cooking and that is why he quit his job as an accountant to become a chef. Me? I am not like Mary nor am I like John. I don’t have one particular passion and one that is so strong that I want to pursue that one interest for unforeseeable future. I have a lot of things that I care about and I enjoy doing, but they are often changing from time to time. 

So the truth is, if you are like me, and you don’t feel like you don’t have any passion, then don’t feel bad. I am sure there are many things in your life that you enjoy doing and they describe who you are as a person. Now I would like to share with you what I enjoy doing and things that put a smile on my face. In no particular order:

  • Spending time with my loved ones
  • Being productive
  • Learning new skills
  • Coming up with a great idea or a solution
  • Creating things 

As you can see, they are vague and broad. It would be weird to say “I am passionate about spending time with my loved ones” or “I have a passion for being productive”. There is a saying that “follow your passion and everything will fall into place”. I used to feel like I was going to be stuck at my job forever and be a fairly average person (not that there is anything wrong with being average) because I can’t seem to figure out what that one passion is that I need to follow. And then I panic and worry about my future. 

But I think I am going to be ok. And if you are like me, you will be too. Because in the end, every one of us is unique and different. Even if some of us don’t have any passion or don’t believe that we do, as long as we are doing what we love and we are having more good days than bad ones, having a passion or not doesn’t really matter in the end.  

My main takeaways from Girl Geek Sydney Meetup in Oct 2016 + Atlassian Sydney HQ

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Girl Geek Sydney Meetup at the Atlassian HQ in Sydney. It was my first time attending a Girl Geek event because well, in the evenings, I have important personal committments, such as making dinner for my daughter, bathing her and putting her to sleep.    
But, there is always a but. I have heard good things about Girl Geek events and being a woman in technology, I know how nice it is to get support from fellow women so I made time yesterday evening to attend.  Besides, as I’m doing more speaking engagements and on the look out for collaboration opportunities this year, I thought I might learn a few things from the event. And I wasn’t disappointed. There were pizza, drinks, inspiring talks and a room full of intelligent women (and a few men) in technology. Now, I’d like to share my main takeaways from the three talks that evening. 

Georgie Luhur – How to let go of the fear of failure and make better goals


Georgie talked about performance goals vs learning goals and that was my main takeaway. I liked that she shared a lot of facts and researches and also shared her personal story that many of us can relate to, getting burnout because we tend to push ourselves too hard in the beginning in order to achieve success that we have in mind. My takeaway was to think about a better version of yourself when you are setting goals and not worry too much about success or failure.  

Sera Prince McGill – Sera’s going on a Job Hunt


Sera is a true character and she took us through her journey of looking for a job that aligns with her values. She was funny and entertaining. My main takeaways were mind map/value map and referrals. She talked about how helpful it was to have a mind map of yourself and referrring to it often as well as tapping into the power of networks and people that you know to support you and keep you going during job hunt. Definitely something that I will think about when I am looking for my next role.  

Leanne Yong – Debunking the myths about following your passion


I really enjoyed Leanne’s talk, she is funny, articulate and clearly very passionate. She talked about her two great loves and how she is following her passion. Her talk and Georgie were somehow related in my opinion. We are sometimes too hard on ourselves and care too much about what other people, the society might say or think. My main takeaways from this talk were that it is ok to take a break, it is ok to feel frustarted sometimes and it is ok to lean into supportive people around you when you’re following your passion.  

All in all, great talks and a great event. We need more meet ups like this and I hope to particpate more in the future. Kudos to the organisers and presenters for their amazing efforts and dedication.    It was an evening well spent for me and it was also a bonus to check out the Atlassian HQ.   

Atlassian Sydney Office

A few people have requested to see photos of the Atlassian Sydney HQ so I’ve added them below. The Atlassian  was the generous host of the October Girl Geek Sydney event. The event was held on Level 6 of the office so my photos are of Level 6 only. Apparently, an Atlassian employee said that it gets better with each level. Perhaps, some robotic stuff?  J/k.