Being Busy Was Just An Excuse - How to motivate yourself to do the important things in life


Being Busy Was Just An Excuse

How to motivate yourself to do the important things in life. 


No matter where you live or what you do in life, everybody, everywhere seems to be busy. I’ve been there myself. I worked a little over 2 years managing two multidisciplinary clinics in Singapore. I had awfully long working hours, a ton of stress and deadlines to meet. Work was rewarding but in all honesty, my relationships with patients and the monthly pay checks were probably the only things that kept my sanity in check. I had no real life outside of work, work was my life. I started to blame my work commitments and the perceived lack of time as an excuse to ignore my personal goals and the things that really mattered in life. I wanted to explore and do so many things besides work, but I had no time.

Books and quotes along the lines of:

“It’s not how much you spend but how you spend your life that matters”,

“The goal isn’t about money, the goal is living life the way I want to",

all sounded great; but life never seemed that simple and just like everyone else I too busy, or at least I thought so. After many months of soul-searching, I decided to quit my job and try live a life without obligations or time-constraints to see how my life unfolds. 


A photo taken right now as I’m drafting this article at home. It’s been a long time since I got some time off during weekdays.

A photo taken right now as I’m drafting this article at home. It’s been a long time since I got some time off during weekdays.


As I was handing in my resignation, I thought to myself, “I would be so productive! I will work on my online business, start a new website, exercise more often, read more, attend seminars, and explore Singapore and the world…” I was finally going to be that guy you read about on the internet. Someone that works on whatever he’s interested in, makes good money for it and at the same time have the freedom of time.

It’s been exactly seven days since I’ve been unemployed and unfortunately, not much has changed. 




Why Being Busy Is Just An Excuse

I always had the habit of managing time when I should have been managing my attention. It turns out that being busy was the easy way out for me. Because I was busy, I didn’t have to make the tough decisions in life. I simply lived a life of reaction, answering back emails, showing up for work, going to meetings and at the same time, checking off my piled up to do lists.

One of the greatest things about the world of too much, is there are always so many small things to do; we never have to do anything big ever again, and we’ll still feel productive. The endless stream of electronic chatter and our horribly full agendas service our need to feel useful, and our desire to appear hardworking, but they are also wonderful opportunities to procrastinate from doing the hard thinking
— "Busy - How to thrive in a world of too much" by Tony Crabbe

By being busy I was letting the world and my inbox dictate my agenda, rather than to think for myself. I was avoiding my need to make the tougher decisions in life – the things that mattered the most. I was busy and I thought I did not have enough time. Not because I had too many things to do, but because I didn’t plan and make the right decisions. 




Set Your Goals The Right Way

As mentioned before, I always had clear ideas as to what I wanted to do outside of work. I did daily self-affirmations, had a vision board and even planned for my goals. But my goals never came to full fruition. Not just because I was busy, but because I didn’t know how to achieve them. Big goals without direction were just too audacious for me and naturally, I pushed these things away and focused on the easier things in life. Showing up for work that I have been doing for the past 2 years was far easier than trying to start an online business from scratch.

Big audacious goals such as setting up a new online business is called a “stretch goal.” Stretch goals are defined as “Goals that cannot be attained by steps but needs extending to the limit to be realised.” Stretch goals are somewhat similar to a mission statement of an organisation. They are important to spark ambition, inspire and engage us to visualise a bigger picture, but without proper support, stretch goals can also crush our morale. This is where SMART goals come in. 


What Are Smart Goals?

Smart goals are used to break stretch goals down into concrete plans and bring structure. Below is an infographic that explains what the acronym means. (Click to enlarge) 


Image credit to Home Philosophy


The purpose of SMART goals is to be more specific with your big audacious goals and break them down into small actionable steps. The more specific and palatable they are, the more likelihood that you will actually perform them. If you want to learn more about setting SMART goals, I highly recommend that you read this article from YourCoach

Examine the first 100 people you meet, ask them what they want most in life, and 98 of them will not be able to tell you. If you press them for an answer, some will say security, many will say money; a few will say happiness; others will say fame and power…

But none of them will be able to define these terms, or give the slightest indication of a plan by which they hope to attain these vaguely expressed wishes.

Riches do not respond to wishes, they only respond to definite plans, backed by definite desires, through consistent persistence.
— Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

As Napolen Hill said, having a solid plan is a great start to actualising your dream life. But it’s not enough. Our plans must be “backed by definite desires, through consistent persistence.” Then how can we develop this persistence? 




Goals Are Never Enough – Know How To Self-Motivate

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person but only when there were pressure and deadlines to meet. This is a perfect example in my workplace. With each deadlines to meet, I forced myself to perform, and maybe that’s why I excelled at work but never really in my other endeavours. I was missing motivation and deadlines that would keep me on the edge. 

I always had to be on the edge and pressured to perform and get things done.

I always had to be on the edge and pressured to perform and get things done.


Studies cited from the book “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg, suggests that “people who know how to self-motivate earn more money than their peers, report higher levels of happiness, and say they are more satisfied with their families, jobs and lives.” Then how can we master self-motivation? According to researchers, the best way to self-motivate is to give ourselves control and authority over our actions, surroundings and lives. In other words, to motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control. 

“Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span,” a team of psychologists wrote in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction. In contrast, having an external locus of control—believing that your life is primarily influenced by events outside your control—“is correlated with higher levels of stress, [often] because an individual perceives the situation as beyond his or her coping abilities,” the team of psychologists wrote.
— "Smarter Faster Better" by Charles Duhigg

Instead of having an “Internal locus”, I was living my life on “external locus of control.” I was, or at least assumed, that my life was dictated by external factors and my surroundings. Even the most trivial things such as what time I wake up or go to bed seemed to be beyond my control. I thought I was too busy, I lived a life of reaction and had no authority over my own life. Now I understand that this wasn't the case. I had the power to control my life all along. I needed to be more responsible and assert authority over my life. Just writing this makes me feel empowered already!


Related ReadingHow Tony Robbins Helped Me Shape My Destiny


Now that I have all the time I need, I’ve written down my stretch goals and started to plan my SMART goals for each one of them. It’s a long process but it’s definitely going to be worth it. I’m becoming more responsible over my life and making a mental habit of transforming chores into meaningful choices.

So when I do start work, I plan to excel not just in work but in all facets of my life. What do you guys think? Do you have any big audacious goals that you might have been putting off? Maybe it’s time to reassess your situation. First of all, are your goals in line with your core values? And if they were, have you planned appropriately? Are you really that busy?

There are single mom entrepreneurs out there that get more things done than most of us. Let’s make sure we are asking the right questions, not just falling back on the easier choice of busyness.