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How busyness leads to bad decisions

Chronically Busy

Chronically Busy

Normally, people who are busy and stressed out on constant work, eradicate their work-life balance by bringing work home or worrying about unfinished work too much, leading to stress.

Chronically busy people feel pressed for time and are stressed out, narrowing their attention and cognitive bandwidth.

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Busyness is a myth

Although people feel much busier with work these days, the total time people are working – whether paid or otherwise – has not increased in Europe or North America in recent decades.

The illusion of busyness is caused by:
  • Economies grow and time is more valuable: Any given hour is worth more, so we experience more pressure to squeeze in more work.
  • The type of work we do has changed: We live in an “infinite world" - more incoming emails, meetings, things to read, more ideas to follow up – and digital technology means you can easily crank through them. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed.
Busyness has become the indicator of status

Though historically, the ultimate symbol of wealth, achievement and social superiority was the freedom not to work. Now we measure our worth not by the results we achieve, but by how much of our time we spend doing things. 

Busy with meaningless stuff

We can all feel very busy, but despite all this bustle, we often don’t feel particularly productive from day to day and often let the "big stuff" go unattended.

If we want to take back contro...

What you're currently doing

The act of becoming aware of where your attention is focused helps you to direct your attention where you want it to be - on creating something significant.

Setting time aside

To learn to control your attention, set aside at least one time period per day to focus without interruption. Let it be no more than 90 minutes at a time. Do something important but not urgent.

Ask yourself: Are you scheduling time daily to focus without interruption?

The urgency bias
The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.
Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.