Reducing Busyness: 3 Steps To Clearing Your Schedule (and your mind)

Busyness is a habit that many of us have developed and it’s no wonder why. In a world of constant updates, notifications, and “do-more-as-validation” messaging,  it may seem impossible to focus on a single task.

In a typical hour, you’ve probably got a lot of things going on. Checking and responding to email, social media responses, text messages, phone calls, updating your website, refilling your coffee—all these essential tasks need to get done! We are so busy all the time that busyness has turned into a habit. Think about it, when you sit down at your computer to start a project for a client, do you solely focus on the task at hand or do you find yourself clicking other tabs to see if that important email has come in or if there are any new responses in that business facebook group you are in? If you are like most of us, you fall into the latter category. We have become addicted to doing too many things at once. Therein lies the problem.

As entrepreneurs, we have entered a busyness trap and it is really bringing down our overall efficiency.

I have good news. You don’t have to stay stuck in that track. As with any bad habits, the busyness habit can be broken.

Here are three steps to breaking the habit and reducing busyness:

Step 1: Recognize the Problem

You are already well on your way to reducing busyness because in reading this post, you are admitting you have a busyness problem. You have recognized that busyness is not the answer. While on the face of it, it seems rewarding, it’s like drinking Red Bull. A shot of energy, perhaps, but otherwise terrible for you and not good in significant doses—and let’s not forget that dreaded crash.

Step 2: Give Yourself Time To Make a Plan

Knowing where your priorities need to lie is an important step to reducing busyness. Sure, many things need to happen everyday but you probably don’t need to respond to that email seconds after it landed in your inbox. Take time to find clarity around what is important. Ask yourself which activities have an impact, and which do not. Keep two separate lists: one for high-value tasks and one for low-value tasks.

Here are some things you should consider:

  • If scrolling through your Facebook feed leaves you feeling like you need to take a shower, add it to the low-value list.
  • When it comes to checking email, consider how often: checking immediately might be low value, but it does need to get done. AT what frequency would it become high-value? Maybe it should be a twice-daily check-in.
  • YOU are high-value. Make time for yourself. Block unavailable time in your calendar. Stick to it no matter what. It’s your time to chill. Not only do you deserve it, it’s essential for clearing your mind.
  • And what about those spur-of-the-moment activities that absolutely have to be done but weren’t included on the list—the high-value unknowns. Block time in your calendar for those too!
  • Give yourself permission to stop the “busy-merry-go-round” for a month and see what happens. Experiment. Notice what feels good about it and plan around those tasks.
  • Pick a day (or an afternoon, to start) to unplug and go screenless. It will help you recognize how unimportant some of those “busy” activities are.

Step 3: Remove or Minimize the Low-Value Tasks

Now that you have two separate lists, pin the high-value ones on the wall by your desk to act as a reminder of what is important. Take the low-value list and a big black marker. Cross off the tasks that can be eliminated completely. If they don’t HAVE to happen and they don’t provide any sort of value, there’s no need to keep them in your life—ousting time in your schedule and inhabiting precious mind space. For the items that do have to happen at some point but not as frequently as you have been doing them, schedule specific times to include them in your routine. Perhaps checking in with your Facebook groups only needs to happen once a day. Maybe you need to limit those educational, industry blog posts to a single one in the morning as you drink your coffee, rather than spiraling down that continuous black hole of “like” posts.  Whatever the task is, evaluate the frequency in which in needs to occur and only do it in the times you have scheduled.

For more tips for reducing busyness,
check out this post by Klaus Crow on Simplify Your Day.

Busyness is your choice. You create your life through your thoughts and your actions. The problem is that your busyness has become an unconscious choice that tends to get rewarded and reinforced in our culture. It’s your job to notice what activities increase your busyness, and which ones can be minimized or avoided altogether.

It’s a process! Give yourself time and grace to undo a habit that could be years in the making. With practice and small successes, you will come to see just how much value there is in being less busy.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to reducing busyness? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.