You’re being stalked right now.
No, not by people in camouflage gear and woolly hats.
It’s Busy. Busy is after you.
When Busy catches you, it gets you to do things. Lots of things.
(Doing things is good, though, surely?)
Well, Busy has rules. You have to stay in motion. Inactivity is forbidden.
And, crucially, you’re not allowed to think about why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Priority isn’t considered. Questions like “what is this thing I’m doing now helping me ultimately to achieve?” are not allowed. It’s as if you’re running, but you’re not allowed to look up, only at your feet.
How does Busy catch you? It has many traps.
Every one of those apps on your smartphone with an icon indicating there’s something new is a potential trap. “I’ll just see what’s new” you think, and 20 minutes later you’re still reading Facebook posts.
There are traps, too, in all those website links that take you off topic. You can end up surfing merrily for quite a while before you realise you have only a vague idea what got you surfing in the first place.
One trap that catches a lot of people is the Last Email To Arrive. It pops into your inbox, shiny and new. You open it and get stuck in. 30 minutes later, say, it’s handled. That ought to be a cause for celebration, right? So why do you have this niggling doubt, this sense that those 30 minutes weren’t optimally spent?
Could it be that, in getting you to focus on that email, Busy really had you engaging in a subtle form of procrastination? (Busy chuckles with satisfaction).
Most people don’t know they’ve been caught by Busy. As a matter of fact, they may go for days or weeks without realising there’s a problem. When the boss drops by, they’re working. They’re always doing something, which must mean they’re being productive, doesn’t it?
The problem comes at their next performance review. The boss breaks out that list of goals to check how many are done. Hmm, very few of them. (Busy cackles evilly).
If you want to keep clear of Busy’s traps, then what’s to do?
Raise your sights. Keep a question in your back pocket, to be pulled out regularly as you navigate your day: “What will doing this help me ultimately to achieve?”
And beware the Last Email to Arrive trap. Ask yourself, what are the chances that that last email really is the most important thing to do, of all of the things you could be focused on?
Arm yourself, and you can keep Busy at bay. And come that next performance review, it will be you chuckling with satisfaction.