Why busy is the new stupid, and what we can do about it

“I buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time.”

Warren Buffett has practically nothing on his calendar. He gets eight hours of sleep each night, spends 80% of his day reading, and plays bridge after work to unwind.

As someone who understands intrinsic values, he sure understands the value of time.

Technological advancements have enabled the possibility of doing more things in a shorter amount of time, but having a great deal to do is not the way of the wise. Being busy only gives us the illusion of progress.

Busy does not mean effective.

In our pursuit of growth, we seek knowledge. Today’s technology can deliver a heavy chunk of that in an instant, but information can only be beneficial when put into use. Because we are too busy acquiring more information, we do not stop to process what we learn.

What usually happens…
1. Reads a book, gets inspired. → Talks about it with other people → Does nothing.
2. Attends a conference, gets fantastic ideas → Thinks about them on the way home. → Wakes up the following day, gets overwhelmed by the whirlwind at work and forgets about them.
3. A spontaneous conversation results in a potentially synergistic partnership. → Gets too busy to make time to follow up.

scenario 1
The normal vs. the effective use of productive hours

In this age of information, we are thrust into an open sea of ideas, and we allow ourselves to get tossed by its waves. A nagging voice in our head begs the question, after tens of books, a hundred conversations, five conferences, three trips, and dozens of articles, what have you really accomplished?

Busy distracts us from what is truly important.

Think about the year that has passed. How many relationships faded? How many false promises were made? How many passion projects were started and never finished?

Saying you’re too busy for something simply means that something is not your priority. Yet, we often say the opposite when asked what we prioritize over all else.

scenario 2
Often, our habits do not mirror what we ought to prioritize.

Why don’t we get rid of the dissonance that causes our frustration?

Stop and smell the flowers.

Reflect. Actively do this by writing or discussing an idea with somebody. Passively do this by freeing up your mind with mentally-idle time, like cooking, running, fixing your closet, or driving to classical music. After you have processed something, see to it that your action points (if you have any) are implemented immediately in order to keep the momentum.

Be present in moments. Take the time to understand a new concept thoroughly before reading on. While looking outside the car window, vividly narrate what you see. Put your phone away each time you’re conversing with someone. Resist the urge to document every little piece of your day, because it distracts you from the very essence of an experience.

Welcome the things that make you human.

An unexpected setback. A sudden call of duty. An unsolicited rebuke. An emotional breakdown. It’s only a matter of time before we come across something that reminds us how finite we are. When that something comes, we must embrace it with open arms, because it grounds us in the things that truly matter. We then venture again from that reference point.

The world’s signs of success — net worth, prestige, even the pursuit of a passion, have blinded us from what truly matters. At the very core, we desire relationships. We cannot, no matter it seems like at the surface, live without loving and being loved.

Let us carry our noble desires with us, wherever we go.

Be intentional.

The way to make a difference today, in work, in relationships, in one’s personal growth, is to resist hollow actions. We must be intentional in thinking, doing, and being.

In thinking, we must resist the temptation to set aside challenging cognitive activities. We plan. We analyze and synthesize. We reflect.

In doing, we execute our plans diligently. We stick to our commitments. We persevere through hardship, knowing that what follows is a spike in growth.

scenario 3
Living with integrity

In being, we align our thoughts and deeds to our principles, such that different aspects of our lives manifest what we believe is our purpose in this life.

In a life-sized scale, isn’t it exceptionally fulfilling to be one empowered whole, instead of three distant pieces, at once?

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