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Self-Inflicted Busyness

I was working through Lara Casey’s book Make It Happen with Jen last week while we were on a short retreat (Which you can read about here) and one of the questions she asks in the book is: “What didn’t work for you last year?”

Here’s the short list for me:

Not Reading Enough
Lack of Structure
Self-Inflicted Busyness

I want to expand a bit on that last one. What is self-inflicted busyness? Well, for me it’s when I wake up stressed about all the things that are in my head and how there’s not enough time to do it all. So I do one thing for a bit. Then I jump to something else as it pops into my head. What I end up with is a flustered mess of half-assery.

How could I do it differently? I’m experimenting right now with three different things to help me focus.

1. Brain Dump.

For as many times as I’ve heard it described, I’ve actually never done it until this year. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, a “brain dump” is where you sit down for a set amount of time (10-15 minutes) and write down (with a pen and paper) everything that comes into your head. Everything you’ve been thinking about, worrying about, avoiding. Everything. And once it’s all out, then it doesn’t have to live in your brain anymore. Which means you get to go to sleep faster tonight.

2. Selecting tasks for today.

I use the data collected from the brain dump to feed my action steps for my daily work. I’ve been using this Getting Things Done “Moleskine Hack” by Tac Anderson to provide the frame work for this. Basically I write down:

3 things I need to do today
3 things I need to work on today
3 other things I did today.  (retrospective)

Writing these things down takes my mind of the “Big List” and helps me focus on just 3 items, 3 projects. At the end of the day, I reflect on the progress and ideally make the list for the next day. (Though, I have been doing this in the mornings after I read and write for a bit.)

3. Make a schedule. 

Again, using the GTD Moleskine hack framework, I make a schedule in my notebook to provide a rough outline of my day. To open up the schedule and see where I am time wise has been a huge help. I write down the time from 5am-10pm on the left hand side of the page and just map out my day the best I can. Because I’ve found that if I don’t tell my time where to go, it just goes wherever it pleases to whomever beckons. 

(Notice that this poses a fix for two of the things on my “Didn’t Work” list. Structure and Busyness.)
self-inflicted-busyness, GTD Hack, Getting Things Done

I think we have negative thoughts towards busy because our version of busy is usually self-inflicted. Busy only equals “bad” when we’re not actually getting any work done towards our goals. We like to be busy for the sake of busy because it makes us feel like we’re making progress. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather actually make progress than just experience the feeling of progress.


I’d love to hear your structures you have in place to make sure your getting the right things done! Let’s talk about it!

Happy Friday!



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