The productivity industry doesn’t do this work to entertain us. They’re trying hard to help you get more done better. Emphasis on done.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
Tim Kreider writes about modern life’s worship of busyness and how to slow down in The “Busy” Trap for the New York Times Opinionator.
Find the balance between idleness and hustle, for “Life is too short to be busy.”
The key to success is not just focusing on what’s important but knowing what to ignore, to say “No” to. The decision to achieve something requires decisions not to achieve other things.
HBR’s Peter Bregman recommends looking at Focus and Ignore lists every morning to direct your day to success:
List 1: Your Focus List (the road ahead)
What are you trying to achieve? What makes you happy? What’s important to you? Design your time around those things. Because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can’t work 25/8.
List 2: Your Ignore List (the distractions)
To succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complementary questions: what are you willing not to achieve? What doesn’t make you happy? What’s not important to you? What gets in the way?
What makes your Ignore List?
We don’t know about the origin of this story but it’s a nice reminder about setting priorities:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day isn’t enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open area between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions…and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home and perhaps your car.
The sand is everything else…the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Enjoy a romantic dinner with the one you love. Play another 9 or 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the faucet.
Take care of the golf balls first…the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.