Advice, Software Engineer

The Art of Being 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.

Career Guide for Software Developers