My to-do list can touch the floor if I wanted it to. I can think of 10 things off of the top of my head that I really should get done today. I bet you can too. Being busy isn’t hard. We are all usually busier than we would like to be. But is being busy the way we are supposed to live our lives? Most of the time we associate being busy with being ambitious, driven, and goal-oriented. It can also be associated with being rude, rushed, short, or overwhelmed. What makes the difference? It comes down to understanding what is moving you towards your goals and what is just fluff in the way.
It is critical to understand what events in your day are “essential.” By essential, I mean that they have to get done, matter a lot, or are stopping you from moving forward without completing the task. These tasks are the ones that you want to focus your time and attention on. They are valuable uses of your time because they are all contributing to one or more of your short-term or long-term goals. These tasks can range from changing the oil in your car to needing to finalize your report for the boss.
The majority of essential tasks can be managed and planned. Schedule the time or at least assign a day to the completion of your essential tasks. That way you know they will be taken care of before it becomes an emergency. These tasks, big or small, are a great way to spend your time, because they have meaning to you. Yes, I know that changing the oil on your car doesn’t seem to have meaning to you, but it moves you forward in the completion of a task that had to get done.
Now that you understand essential tasks, be on the lookout for “non-essential” fluff that will seep into your life when you let it. I think of these non-essential tasks similar to when a woman came into my house and rattled off a list of everything I needed to fix: repaint the walls, get new door knobs, replace my vinyl floor etc. All of those things would be awesome! Who doesn’t want their house to look like the Taj Mahal? However, nothing was wrong with the way my house was now. Sure I would love a few things changed but it was working great the way it was right now.
Non-essential tasks are sometimes hard to spot because like home renovation ideas, they really would be great to get done, but are neither important nor urgent. What is so scary about non-essential tasks is that the list can go on forever with all the things you would like to do or are “supposed” to get done. Wouldn’t it be nice if I ran to the store? Cleaned the back bedroom? Organized my closet by color? Made that new recipe? Do these things by all means, but when you have enough time they don’t overwhelm you.
My advice for you? Be diligent in managing your day, and make sure you are filling your time with things that move you towards your goals and also make you happy! The reason I love scheduling my essential tasks first is then I can know where to fit in my non-essential task (because heaven knows that back bedroom of mine needs some TLC). So be as busy as you want to be, and know that when you start to feel overwhelmed you can always look to cut out, push off, or completely forget some of your non-essential tasks.