One of the most important things I’ve ever read in my life is a short essay called “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider.
(Have you read it? Read it right now.)
Kreider is a writer who finds himself too busy to write. He forces himself into a state of solitude and contemplation and reaffirms a crucial principle to himself: Life is too short to be busy.
Those seven words made a huge impact on me. I relaunched my consulting business in 2013 built on a belief that life is too short to be busy. I decided that I would never answer an email from someone I hate, never have a conversation with someone I didn’t respect, and never be too busy to write 500 words a day.
Yeah, well, uh, you know, I’m not perfect. Turns out that adulthood is complicated. Life compels me to interact with people who ask me to do shit that I don’t want to do. But I have a process, and when life gets a little hectic, I don’t let a bad week swallow me whole and become a painful month.
I fall back on my process and recover.
And I have core values, too. I write daily, and I never participate in a phone call or a meeting with somebody who sucks. And I don’t indulge someone who uses busy an an excuse for all the things that are wrong with his or her life. For example:
A friend of mine told me that he is wearing a pair of shoes with holes in them because he’s too busy to go shopping. Americans forget that Zappos and online shopping doesn’t exist around the world, but I suggested that there’s plenty of time to buy shoes if you get off Facebook and Twitter.
Another friend and I exchanged four emails about how tough it would be to meet on a Google Hangout. In the time it took us to exchange emails about her schedule, we could have been done already.
I remind myself daily that busy is a choice. And now I’m reminding you. It’s easy to be a victim and to complain about our lives, but it’s also easier than you think to be confident and say no.
Start today. Reclaim your right to five minutes of idleness. Say no to something stupid and say yes to the untapped potential in you life.
And maybe stop telling everyone around you that you’re busy. Busy means that you are not in control, and busy-ness undermines your credibility and authority.