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How we can all get over our glorified addiction to being busy



busy multitasking

busy multitasking

We’re all so busy

The day starts at 7:30 with coffee and a quick dog walk. A shower and oatmeal later, and email gets checked. News is read. Social media is managed. Work begins with a start as the phone is stacked on top of the tablet, thrown into a bag, and rushed to the office.

Email is checked again, fires are put out, calls are returned, and work conversations are had. Meetings commence, and set for the next few days, more tweets go out, and more emails are written, as we all hoard tabs in our browsers. The day ends, and we drive home, check email again, eat dinner, play with the kids, Instagram them, check email again, Facebook for a bit, work out, email some more, then go to bed.

This is a relatively standard day for the modern professional. Sound familiar? We sure as hell sound busy, right? It’s true, we are. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.

Being busy is an addiction, plain and simple, and our culture is just looking for the next hit. Be it a time saver or a shiny app, most people brag about how they are just oh so busy. For years, bragging about being busy has been a social commodity, with people getting “oohs” and “aahs” when they proclaim they’re so busy they only get three hours of sleep.

No more.

The glorification of being busy is being rejected by the masses, slowly but surely. I’m not convinced that the 4 hour work week is the answer, nor am I convinced that bragging about working 80 hours a week is anything other than a sign of an inability to prioritize and manage tasks properly, but I am convinced that the glorified addiction to being busy can be broken.

But it’s tough.

I’m one of those people that are busy all the time. If I have an extra 30 seconds in a line at the store, I’ll check email. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office and don’t have an internet connection, I’m nose-deep in a book. If I’m waiting for an image to upload on Facebook, I’m diving into my feed reader, and when I’m on hold, I’m most certainly tweeting. I’m guilty of being busy, and I was born that way. I don’t see it as a bragging right, I’m just a toe-tapper and always on the go.

So how does one break free? There are millions of articles on productivity that you can Google or read here, but here’s how I’ve been breaking free from being addicted to being busy:

  1. Waiting in lines, I chat up people around me instead of hiding behind my phone. Being aware of my surroundings has reminded me that networking happens everywhere, not just online.
  2. I no longer work without breaks – I walk around, I make a personal call in the afternoon, I go outside and gather my thoughts without distraction. This has boosted my productivity tremendously.
  3. I shame myself when I tell others that I’m “busy,” rather I now try to say that I’m doing well and am excited about the projects I’m involved in. It leaves a much more positive impression in peoples’ minds than a veiled complaint about my chaotic schedule.
  4. I say no. We’re all told to never miss an opportunity and to say yes to everything, but last year, I resolved to never knee-jerk agree to anything, rather, I always thank someone for the opportunity and vow to put serious thought into it. And then I do. Most of the time, I end up saying no, because it doesn’t serve anyone for me to be stretched too thin.

What have you done to reject the glorification of being busy and actually work productively and make time for family and friends?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Hank Miller

    June 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Lani you’re always a good read.

    How much of this is hardwired behavior for the type A/AA entrepreneur? Most of us have the “if not working, thinking about working” mindset. If you genuinely enjoy work, is being connected a bad thing? Within reason of course….I know I can recharge with a day off….stretch it to 3-4 and I get antsy.

    Then there’s the practical side we all know – when it’s busy you better make it and store it for when it’s slow. Finding a balance can be tough but successful folks fit down time in.

    Enough with this, need to finish a blog post……

  2. AmyVernon

    June 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    It’s so true – we’re so addicted to being busy that we forget that’s not necessarily a good thing. I love #3, especially, because we try to glorify our busy-ness, as if it makes us special.

  3. Chris Lengquist

    December 25, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Work hard when you are working. Relax when you are relaxing. Be where you are.

    I know it sounds cliche, but I’m 50 now and I realize that enjoying my life and family is far more important than being busy for busy sake.

    Great write. Sorry it took me so long to find.

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Opinion Editorials

3 things to do if you *really* want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce.



follow your passion career job interview

More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

(This article was first published here in November, 2016.)

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Opinion Editorials

Serial procrastinator? Your issue isn’t time management

(EDITORIAL) Need a hack for your time management? Try focusing on your energy management.




Your author has a confession to make; as a “type B” personality who has always struggled with procrastination, I am endlessly fascinated by the topic of productivity and “hacking your time.”

I’ve tried most of the tricks you’ve read about, with varying degrees of success.

Recently, publishers like BBC have begun to approach productivity from a different perspective; rather than packing days full of to-do items as a way to maximize time, the key is to maximize your mental energy through a different brand of time management.

So, why doesn’t time management work?

For starters, not all work time is quality time by nature. According to a study published at ScienceDirect, your average worker is interrupted 87 times a day on the job. For an 8-hour day, that’s almost 11 times per hour. No wonder it’s so hard to stay focused!

Second, time management implies a need to fill time in order to maximize it.

It’s the difference between “being busy” and “being productive.”

It also doesn’t impress your boss; a Boston University study concluded that “managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.” By contrast, managing your energy lets you maximize your time based on how it fits with your mental state.

Now, how do you manage your energy?

First, understand and protect the time that should actually go into deep, focused work. Studies continually show that just a few hours of focused worked yield the greatest results; try to put in longer hours behind that, and you’ll see diminishing returns. There’s a couple ways you can accomplish this.

You can block off time in your day dedicated to focused work, and guard the time as if it were a meeting. You could also physically retreat to a private space in order to work on a task.

Building in flexibility is another key to managing your energy. The BBC article references a 1980s study that divided students into two groups; one group planned out monthly goals, while the other group planned out daily goals and activities. The study found the monthly planners accomplished more of their goals, because the students focusing on detailed daily plans often found them foiled by the unexpected.

Moral of the story?

Don’t lock in your schedule too tightly; leave space for the unexpected.

Finally, you should consider making time for rest, a fact reiterated often by the BBC article. You’ve probably heard the advice before that taking 17 minute breaks for every 52 minutes worked is important, and studies continue to show that it is. However, rest also includes taking the time to turn your brain off of work mode entirely.

The BBC article quotes associated professor of psychiatry Srini Pillay as saying that, “[people] need to use both the focus ad unfocus circuits in the brain,” in order to be fully productive. High achievers like Serena Williams, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates build this into their mentality and their practice.

Embracing rest and unfocused thinking may be key to “embracing the slumps,” as the BBC article puts it.

In conclusion, by leaving some flexibility in your schedule and listening to your body and mind, you can better tailor your day to your mental state and match your brainpower to the appropriate task. As someone who is tempted to keep a busy to-do list myself, I am excited to reevaluate and improve my own approach. Maybe you should revisit your own systems as well.

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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).



bullet journal

It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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