Busyness implies unclear priorities

In Tim Ferriss’s recent interview with Derek Sivers (transcript here) there’s a really interesting discussion on the idea that being busy implies a lack of control and unclear priorities:


Every time people contact you, every time people contact me they say “I know you must be incredibly busy”, and I always think “No, I’m not.” Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. Busy, to me, seems to imply out of control, you know? Like “Oh my God, I’m so busy! I don’t have any time for this shit!” To me that sounds like a person who’s got no control of their life.


No control and unclear priorities.


Yes! Exactly. So you asked how it’s applying in my life: on the little tiny day-to-day level, even personal things, even people you meet, even as I’m dating, you have to do the hell yeah or no approach. People ask you to go to events or even people asking to do a phone call or anything. I think “Am I really excited about that?” Almost every time the answer is no. So I say no to almost everything.

As someone who feels busy a lot, this really resonated with me. I’ve accumulated too many things, too many projects, and too many time commitments because I don’t say “no” often enough.

Here are a few work related changes I’m making to try to help:

  • This morning, I left about 25 Slack channels at work. I normally have two groups, one of favorited channels whose disucssions I try to read completely and another larger group of channels that I’m in but don’t try to read completely. I left almost all of the channels in the second group and several from the first. While this won’t free up a ton of time because I wasn’t reading the channels in the un-favorited group anyway, it did declutter Slack a lot which will help me focus more on the discussions that are important to me.
  • I attend several regular virtual hangouts at work that aren’t directly related to what I do on a day to day basis but I usually attend anyway just for awareness of what’s going on at other areas of the company. Some of these aren’t “hell yeah” meetings for me (to use Derek’s terminology) so I probably won’t attend in the future I’m needed.
  • I was following 51 P2s (internal blogs) at Automattic, but many of those were left overs from when I was part of a different team (I was on the Store Team but am now on the Data Team). I unfollowed a bunch, bringing my total to 36 30. Automatticians: there’s an easy way to figure out how many P2s you follow – ping me for details.
  • I uncommitted myself from some projects to allow me to focus more on the projects that are really important to me and to the company. I was a bit uneasy going into the “I no longer want to work on this so that I can focus on these other things” conversations, but folks were understanding and I’m really glad now I did it.

I imagine this exodus will looked pretty suspicious to any coworkers that happen to notice, but rest assured I will be returning after Christmas vacation :).

To wrap up: if you find yourself overwhelmed or busy all the time, try cutting a few things. It might not be easy, but you’ll likely find yourself much more relaxed as you decrease the number of things your plate.

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