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Do you lead a busy life?

Are you always too busy for anything?

Are you lost in the busyness of life?

You may be addicted to being busy.

Lately, I found it difficult to write anything or do anything that matters. I used to enjoy writing in the morning back when I was working in Malaysia, but these days I just procrastinate. Ever since I came back to Singapore three weeks ago, I couldn’t get my groove and routine back.

And what’s worse, my creative juices are gone!

Instead of forcing myself to continue working, I paused and asked myself with empathy:

  • “What happened?”
  • “What’s wrong?”
  • “How are you feeling?”
  • “Why are you feeling so lost and unmotivated?”
  • “What have changed that caused you to feel this way?”

You’ve all the answers if you’re willing to ask yourself nicely.

And through my reflection, I realized something — I was stuck in the busyness of life. I was being too busy.

Dealing with the Busyness of Life

I had been waking up at 6.30 am almost every morning ever since I was in Malaysia. Waking up early in Malaysia works for me because my apartment is just opposite my company and work starts at 10 am. So I have a good 2 – 3 hours to write.

These days, it’s hard to get any writing done. My work starts at 9 am and commute time is about 30 – 45 minutes. So my mornings are shortened to 1 hour now.

But time isn’t the only issue here, it’s the environment too. The fast-paced and hectic environment in Singapore makes me feel lost and unsettled.

Crowds Make Me Tired

One of the reasons I didn’t like my job as an auditor seven years ago was because I didn’t like to work in the finance district. There are lots of people everywhere. And although I love people, I can’t stand crowds. I feel tired and drained being in the crowds.

Now, I get the same or even larger crowds in neighborhood areas during peak hours.

Every morning when I go for work, I feel de-energized. Although I leave for work early and continued my ritual of strolling to work, my mood was affected by the rushing crowds on the train.

All I see every day are the busyness of life:

  • human and traffic jam,
  • hurried footsteps of people who are late for work,
  • people rushing anxiously into the trains before the doors close,
  • people feeling frustrated about the crowds and the peak hours,
  • people busy on their mobile phone and so on.

And my first thought is, “Do we really have to rush to work?”

When people are busy and rushing for something, their moods are naturally bad.

How can you have a good mood when other people who share the same space as you are not having good moods?

If You Can’t Change the Environment, Change Yourself

This Monday morning, I woke up with an idea:

“Why not go to work earlier?”

For the past weeks, I had been thinking how could I change my environment and I was stuck. Then, I had an idea. Rather than changing my environment, why not change myself instead? Why not avoid the crowds altogether?

So I woke up at 5.30 am and left home around 6 plus in the dark.

And it felt so liberating!

There are hardly anyone on the roads and trains. The morning is quiet. People generally have better moods and are much calmer.

But that’s not all, here are what I also saw:

  • a random auntie walking towards me greeted me “good morning”,
  • a dad tying shoelaces for his son with care and love,
  • elderly enjoying their morning routines and exercises together,
  • students walking slowly for schools, and
  • the tables that I used to do my homework before I left for school.

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It’s funny how I walked passed those tables almost twice every weekday for the last 15 years but I was too “busy” to notice them.

That morning, I saw things that I usually missed. I remembered I used to do my homework alone on one of those tables because I didn’t want to go to my class early.

And here I am, 15 years later, doing the same thing I used to do – avoiding crowds.

What Else Did I Do to Make My Life Less Hectic?

As a creative introvert, I couldn’t think clearly when I’m surrounded by people. After I go to work earlier, my creative juices are back again! I’m definitely sticking with this routine for now.

But apart from this, I have made some tweaks in other areas of my life too.

Unsubscribe to Most of My Email Newsletters

Recently, I was reading a book called Busy: How to thrive in a world of too much by Tony Crabbe. And I learned that people are busy due to a failure to make choices. 

I realized that I hadn’t been making choices with regards to my email subscriptions. I was receiving too many emails that I don’t read. But I didn’t unsubscribe to them.

Seeing my inbox flooded with unread emails or links that I want to go through but don’t have the time to do so was frustrating to me. In the end, I unsubscribed to most of my email newsletters and only keep the newsletter that are really relevant to me now.

I used to keep them because I felt that:

  • some of the information were relevant to me before and had benefitted me in the past, and
  • some of the information seemed to be useful to me in the future.
  • unsubscribing to these email newsletter made me feel like I’m missing something important.

But when I realized that this was coming from a lack mentality, I decided to change that.

You see I would rather live in the presence instead of living in the past or the future. I can always sign up the newsletters again or search online when I need the information. And there is no lack of information out there. There is just a lack of decision-making on my part to filter out those information.

Go For Social Hibernation

From time to time, you will see me disappear from social media or from the face of the Earth! Sometimes, I don’t even switch on my mobile phone until lunch time. Usually, I only check my social media and emails during lunch time.

This may appear to be a bit anti-social, but I absolutely need the private time and space to recharge. It’s an introvert thing. I feel so much joy and freedom when I hibernate.

Plus, I don’t see the need to be so available and accessible all the time:

  • First, I’m not that important or indispensable. The world still turns without me.
  • Second, I feel that it’s important to serve my own needs before serving others.
  • Third, I prefer planned interaction to constant disruptive interactions.

All humans want to be needed and want to feel important. But it’s okay not to reply to messages and disappear sometimes.

Single-Tasking

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All my friends know that I can’t multi-task well. I can’t even type a message and walk at the same time.

But it’s not a matter of I can or I can’t. Multi-tasking is just not something that I like to do. I love to focus on one task at a time, and that includes social interaction.

Just last week, I met up with a couple of my friends individually (planned, of course). It’s so nice to have a meaningful 1-1 conversation with your friends and get to know them better.

Whenever my friend or colleague comes to my desk when I’m working, I would either put down my work and give them my 100% attention or ask them to come back later when I’m free. The other party deserves your full attention. It’s basic respect. Plus, you listen better when you focus a 100%.

And this applies to your work too.

If what you do matters to you, it deserves 100% of your attention.

As a creative person, I have millions of ideas waiting for me to execute. But if I were to execute so many ideas at the same time, I’m not giving the attention and focus that my projects deserve.

So instead of being busy with multiple projects, I’ve decided to focus on this website first. I’ve also shortened my long to-do-lists to 3 tasks each. All I need to know at any moment are:

  • What do I need to do now?
  • What will I be doing next?
  • And what can I do if I’m stuck with the first two tasks?

The rest of the items on my to-do-lists are irrelevant because the outcome for the first three tasks might affect the order or the importance of the other action steps. So why focus on them now?

Why Do You Want to Be So Busy?

Every morning when I walk in the subway, I wonder why people around me are so busy and rushing. Some Singaporeans go for holiday at least once a year to escape from their busy life here. But to me, holiday should be an adventure. It should be fun. It shouldn’t be a means to escape.

I think the question we have to ask ourselves is not how we can handle being busy. The important question to ask yourself is why do we want to be so busy in the first place.

If you think that success requires you to be busy, perhaps you should redefine your definition of success. If you find yourself too busy all the time for no good reasons, perhaps you haven’t chosen the most important thing in your life to pursue.

Don’t let being busy runs your life. And don’t get addicted to being busy. Decide what you want in life and seek the best and easiest ways to achieve your goals.

Question: What is keeping you busy lately? Please share your thoughts below.

[This post first appears on Fearless Passion blog.]


Featured Photo Credit: Rush hour / Tuan Minh Pham via Flickr.com

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